What could we do with a billion dollars?

Now that Congress has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, more than a billion dollars will be coming to Oregon for transportation.

That’s great news and it presents us with a big opportunity to think about how we can spend that money wisely. Some of the money is committed to specific projects already underway. But, we’ll have choices with the rest and we should demand that it be invested in things that we know we need in the future. Things that will give people more freedom, access, and choices about how they get around, and which also make our communities safer, healthier, and more resilient.

What kinds of things could this be? Imagine more e-bikes, better sidewalks and safe streets near schools and parks, more frequent bus service to more places, and more charging stations for electric vehicles of all kinds. As much money as possible should be directed toward building a transportation system that works for communities all over Oregon — one that is equitable, safe for people of all ages and abilities, climate-smart, and more efficiently uses the space and resources we can expect to have in the future.

OEC has a vision for how to best spend this windfall. We coordinated a joint letter signed by 23 organizations to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) in September, urging them to plan to spend the influx of federal money wisely on projects that are most effective at reducing emissions, and replacing individual car trips with – more transit infrastructure and service, more transportation electrification, and biking and walking infrastructure. We will continue to advocate for this money to be spent well at every step, and we’re hoping that you will help us. 

We have some ideas for how a billion dollars in transportation could be spent, and we’re just getting started:

  • The state, counties, and cities have bicycle and pedestrian plans that identify needed local infrastructure to make it safer and more convenient to get around without driving. Let’s help communities statewide build the projects they already have planned. 
  • We could make a big difference on the ODOT-owned highways that run through communities all over Oregon. These former Main Streets have been turned into highways, making it hard for locals and visitors alike to access local businesses. Let’s make those roads work once again for the people who live, work, and play there.
  • Some of the most polluting vehicles in Oregon are big, heavy diesel trucks and buses. Replacing them with electric vehicles would make a big difference for air quality and human health, but it can be expensive. Let’s help school districts and transit agencies around the state make investments in more sustainable transportation. 
  • We know that reaching our climate goals will require a lot more public transit, and since federal money can be spent on transit operations (our state gas tax can only be spent on infrastructure), let’s spend it on getting more (electric) buses and more trains moving!

Everybody has a transportation story. Everybody can think of great ways to spend a billion dollars to make it easier, safer, healthier, and more sustainable to get around in Oregon. Maybe it’s big safety improvements on the busy streets in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s more trains between Eugene and Salem so your mom can come visit you without having to worry about driving on the highway at night. Maybe it’s more local transit service so you don’t have to drive to the big game at the stadium or to get a few groceries. Maybe it’s jetpacks. (Okay, that’s maybe not a suggestion OEC will get behind, but we’re willing to hear you out!) It’s time for Oregon to start thinking differently about transportation.

How would you spend a billion dollars? 

In the months ahead there are going to be a lot of conversations about how to spend this money. Join us to stay informed about when and where these conversations are taking place and to learn how you can participate.

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