SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers will get a transportation package tomorrow that is a year and a half in the making.
That’s how long ago legislative leaders began touring the state and asking communities what they needed.
“It’s been a long, long effort. And I think it’s worthwhile. The bill has some very novel things in it that will be very positive for Oregon in general and I’m happy for the work we’ve done,” said Rep. Cliff Bentz, a Republican from Ontario. Bentz helped lead the committee that hammered out the final bill.
The plan will raise nearly $3 billion in taxes and fees over the next eight years. It will include a phased-in, 10 cent increase in the gas tax, an increase in vehicle registration fees, a payroll tax of one-tenth of one percent on every worker in Oregon, and a fee on the sale of adult bikes that cost $200 or more.
It will pay for several projects in the greater Portland area, including an estimated $400 million overhaul of Interstate 5 near the Rose Quarter. The plan would also add a lane in each direction on the often crowded Highway 217, Interstate 205 and the Abernathy Bridge , which carries I-205 across the Willamette River in Oregon City.
That last part of the plan may include tolling.
“More likely we’re probably looking at some tolling on 205 as a way to have to do that,” said State Senator Lee Beyer, (D) Springfield, another leader of the transportation plan. “That decision has not been made but it’s a likelihood. It’s a very expensive projects and within existing money we don’t have money to do that."
The payroll tax would fund a statewide account for public transportation. It would help push buses in to more rural areas and allow small towns to create more robust public systems, according to Byer and Bentz.
A $15 tax on bike sales would pay for paths that would let bike riders get off roadways, according to supporters.
Another part of the plan would set up a system to charge vehicles that do not run on gas, a fee based on the miles they travel each year.
The final transportation bill could be voted on by lawmakers as soon as Saturday.
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