Clackamas Projects Omitted in Major Legislation as Transportation Package Gets Fast Green Light

Though seriously lacking in projects for Clackamas County, passage of a $3.8 billion transportation package in the Legislature July 6 should be considered a coup for Governor Kate Brown and Democratic leadership.

HB 2017, which originally contained $5.1 billion in projects, passed the House 39-20 with 36 required in the 60-member House due to the so-called three-fifths rule on revenue (tax) measures.

Not all Democrats voted for it — reasoning was based on “not enough money for enough projects” or “too much money for too few projects” — whereas 11 Republicans crossed over in favor.

Much of the work will be focused on Multnomah County, principally in relieving big traffic bottlenecks as Portland’s weekday evening rush-hour traffic now begins at 3 p.m. and doesn’t really wind down until close to 6 p.m.

One of Clackamas County’s biggest such bottlenecks concerns I-205, our busiest highway. Work on the Abernethy Bridge connecting West Linn and Oregon City is a veritable stop-and-go mess at rush hour, as is the highway near Stafford where it narrows from three lanes into two.
Voting against it were two new Democrats from Clackamas County, Rep. Mark Meek, of Gladstone, and Rep. Janelle Bynum, of Happy Valley. Joining them were GOP Reps. Bill Kennemer, of Oregon City, and Julie Parrish, of West Linn.

With breakneck speed, HB 2017 immediately moved to the Senate, where it passed 22-8, also a bipartisan response, within hours.

Two of Clackamas County’s six state senators voted “no.” Both are Republicans. They were Sen. Alan Olsen, of Canby, and Chuck Thomsen, of Hood River (who represents much of northern Clackamas County).

Olsen probably figured the cost was too high. When he was asked by a constituent to fight for the I-205 projects, he wrote back that he “would have to take a close look at the costs” before taking a position. No mention of the local needs, just the cost. His negative vote was a typical anti-tax response.

West Linn has an ongoing dispute with the Department of Transportation concerning Oregon Highway 43 (Willamette Drive), one of the busiest arterials in that city. The DOT has been reluctant to adequately maintain the roadway, saying it’s the city’s job. The city, of course, says the opposite. It is unclear at this writing if that situation was addressed by HB 2017.

Gov. Brown tried to get a similar package in the 2015 legislature but was thwarted by Republicans. They wanted to stop a clean-air fuel proposal. If it were stopped, they’d vote for the bill. If not, they wouldn’t. This time that aspect was dealt with separately.