The Oregon Department of Transportation is pumping up its congestion relief program by creating an office to direct megaprojects and tolling.
The Office of Urban Mobility and Mega Project Delivery, which was announced Tuesday, will have implications for Clark County drivers.
Thousands of residents commute to Oregon jobs and endure almost daily traffic jams on and near the two freeway bridges over the Columbia River and the section of Interstate 5 near the Rose Quarter.
The office will focus on delivering congestion solutions, as the Oregon Legislature directed in its 2017 transportation bill.
The mobility office will oversee proposed improvements to I-5 near the Rose Quarter, which is listed as the nation’s 28th biggest truck bottleneck. The project has been widely panned by climate change activists who say the state cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adding freeway capacity.
The Oregon and Washington transportation departments are taking the first steps for a second effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, a megaproject that could cost more than $3 billion and almost certainly will include tolling. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a Nov. 18 agreement to replace the bridge’s two spans, which opened in 1917 and 1958.
Tom Fuller, Oregon Department of Transportation’s communications manager, said in an email that the new office “will lead ODOT’s partnership with the state of Washington to help bring about this much-needed bridge replacement.”
Oregon also is looking to add tolls on a section of Interstate 205 to pay for improvements to Abernethy Bridge over the Willamette River between West Linn and Oregon City. The state also has proposed tolling I-5 between North Going Street and Southwest Multnomah Boulevard.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has repeatedly blasted Oregon’s tolling proposal. In a Sept. 4 letter to Inslee, she wrote the plan “treats Southwest Washington commuters as a revenue source without providing them with any benefit.”
Kris Strickler, Oregon’s transportation director who previously worked as the Washington State Department of Transportation’s regional administrator in Southwest Washington, outlined his expectations for the new office.
“The creation of this office not only signals ODOT’s commitment to addressing congestion on all fronts but signals our new way of doing business,” Strickler said in a statement. “The agency will enhance its efforts to grow beyond just a highway department into an organization focused on providing transportation options for all users, making decisions through the lens of social equity, and ensuring equitable access to transportation choices and economic opportunities for communities and individuals across our state.”
The Oregon Department of Transportation announced three people who will have lead roles in the new office:
• Brendan Finn, office director, staring March 1. Finn most recently served as Brown’s transportation policy adviser and spent 19 years working for the city of Portland, including time as chief of staff for former Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
• Della Mosier, office deputy director, beginning immediately. Mosier has more than 20 years of transportation experience, including 10 years with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
• Lucinda Broussard, tolling program manager, starting Feb. 1. Broussard has more than 20 years of tolling experience, including 15 years as toll operations manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation.