TRANSPORTATION ACT MAKES GOOD SENSE
Oregon has long taken pride in its road system. Many of the state's bridges however, are in poor condition and need major work to keep them from failing.
SOME EXTRA effort and funding, beyond what is available through the current gas tax and registration fees, is needed to bring our road system back into shape.
Think of how dependent Northeast Oregon residents and the people who live in other remote corners of the state are on our roads. Thankfully some user fees were increased in 2001 to support a $500 million bond, which allowed major highway improvements such as the bridge repairs under way on Interstate 84 west of La Grande. But there's much more work that needs to be done. The 2003 Oregon Transportation Investment Act, now being considered by the House Transportation Committee, appears to be just the ticket to bring our bridges and roads back into shape.
There is no quick fix. Approximately $2.5 billion would be spent over the next 10 years under the act, including $1.6 billion in bond proceeds to replace and repair state and local bridges; $371 million for county and city road maintenance and preservation, and $500 million for highway modernization projects.
ONE SIGNIFICANT benefit of the Transportation Investment Act is that 4,750 family-wage jobs would be created. Everyone concerned about lifting Oregon out of its recession should be buoyed by this. A strong effort will be needed, however, to ensure that jobs are being created for our residents, and companies from outside Oregon simply are not shipping in their own employees for short-term work on the projects.
Of course there is a price to pay. Under the Transportation Investment Act, motor vehicle registration fees would go up by $12 a year, title fees would climb by $25 and other DMV-related fees would also increase. Currently Oregon has the lowest registration fee in the nation.
No one wants to pay higher fees, but there's an awful price to pay if Oregon's bridges are neglected. Think of what the impact on commerce and tourism could be if several bridges on Interstates 84 or 5 fail in coming years.
The Transportation Investment Act has bipartisan support among legislators. The public should get solidly behind this program to keep our roads and bridges intact.
NO TURNING OF CHEEKS
Portland Trail Blazer owner Paul Allen was right this week in denying the Philadelphia 76ers access to Blazer coach Maurice Cheeks. The 76ers wanted to talk to Cheeks about taking over the team's head coaching job.
CHEEKS IS A bright spot in Portland's efforts to improve its public relations and discard its "Jail-Blazer" image. Fans were turned off this year by the ongoing parade of fights, arrests and inflated egos. Allen knows this and sees Cheeks as a key in bringing character, not more characters, to the Blazers.