Ideas form behind Oregon Statewide Transportation Strategy plan

by John Ledger
Associated Oregon Industries

The Draft Oregon Statewide Transportation Strategy (STS), A 2050 Vision for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction, is out for public comment until July 20. You can see the Report here. It was presented to the Oregon Transportation Commission, who OK’d it for being sent out for public comment.

Initially, the workgroup was to come up with a set of scenarios as to what would it take to get greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of about 30% by 2020 and about 75% by 2050, and do so without making policy endorsements of any type; essentially a research document – very useful if it objectively showed the pros and cons of the various scenarios. Unfortunately, the Report’s timbre moved from research to advocacy, an almost inevitable event, and avoids discussion of the economic consequences for its most aggressive recommendations. This is vital information the business community and public should have, especially if Oregon takes these actions in isolation. Business groups, including AOI, generally supported retaining the research approach and including an analysis of Oregon’s ability to compete and create jobs.

The Report was:

“Developed over the course of 18 months by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) staff, consultants, and a diversity of stakeholders and citizen leaders from around the state, the STS addresses the following key question: What actions and strategies will be effective in reducing transportation related GHG emissions in Oregon while supporting other societal goals such as livable communities, economic vitality, and public health?

“In addressing this subject, the STS constitutes a framework for future work to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions in three key travel markets: Ground Passenger and Commercial Services, Freight, and Air Passenger.”

AOI was one of several business groups that sat on a large advisory workgroup of policy stakeholders. The Report does not purport to represent the views of all the stakeholders and AOI does not endorse the Report.

The Report is interesting in that it gives a glimpse for the first time, albeit only for transportation and a touch of land use, the scope of what would need to be done if Oregon were to get close to achieving the reductions the state adopted as goals in 2007.

ODOT staff did an excellent job providing information and data analysis over a wide and very complex field of issues. Many of them new to the Department.

There are a lot of ideas in the Report and recommendations. Many good, some otherwise. Most of them interesting.

Some recommended actions are educational, such as “develop public outreach and informational materials about the carbon efficiencies of different freight modes to assist shippers and consumers balance transit time, cost, and other considerations against carbon emissions.

Some recommendations are punitive, such as forced reductions in parking for shoppers and workers along with more enforcement /penalties; expanding various fees to make the driver pay for all “social costs” resulting from driving a car; and “…an increase in commercial aviation fuel charges, plus an environmental impact fee per landing and takeoff” to discourage air travel. Ironically for an ODOT document, it recommends many things aimed at making it more difficult and costly to use a car.

Many are related to increasing efficiency generally, such as improving how we move freight “Partner with Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration, the state of Washington, the Province of British Columbia, and freight rail operators on improvements that optimize existing system operations” and using technology to improve traffic flow. Indeed, the Report ultimately bets on new technology to get us to the proposed GHG reductions.

And some are long standing or legislative debates such as new carbon taxes and adopting California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standards for gasoline in Oregon.

ODOT is taking comments on the document until July 20, 2012.

Written comments may be addressed to:

Oregon Department of Transportation
Planning Unit, Attn: Kristina Evanoff
555 13th Street NE, Suite 2
Salem, OR 97301
[email protected]

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