Multnomah County is known as a safety net for the community. But many are surprised to know that the County is also responsible for maintaining six of Portland’s major bridges, 21 smaller bridges, 274 miles of road, and 1,700 culverts.
The County’s transportation role was the focus of November’s East County Community Forum at Gresham City Council earlier this month. Leaders including Metro Government Affairs Director Andy Shaw and Multnomah County Commissioners Lori Stegmann and Jessica Vega Pederson briefed East County residents on the latest regional transportation efforts.
Roughly 100 people per day have been moving to the region in recent years, Shaw said. That brings new challenges when it comes to affordable housing, traffic, and the environment. “This region has been growing at a pretty rapid pace for the last several decades,” he said. “And we will continue to bring a lot of people to this region as our economy grows, as families grow here.”
Next year, voters may decide whether to pass a Metro funding measure that would advance the region’s transportation goals. Throughout the year, local leaders have engaged with communities and formed a task force of Metro staff and community partners to determine the area’s needs.
“We spent many meetings trying to understand all the data about where is congestion, where are safety challenges today, where’s growth occurring, where do we have existing affordable housing that we would want to make transportation investments adjacent to?” Shaw said. “Where is there opportunity?”
By early 2020, the task force will refer a final measure recommendation to the Metro Council. The Council is expected to vote in spring of 2020 on whether to refer a measure to voters in November 2020.
Meanwhile, Multnomah County is working on its own major transportation initiative. The Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project aims to retrofit or replace the bridge before 2030. The nearly 100-year-old bridge is expected to collapse during a major earthquake. Currently the County is conducting an environmental review.
“We need something that is standing and safe to cross so that people have a way to get from one side of the river to the other in the event of an earthquake,” Commissioner Vega Pederson said.
On Thursday, Nov. 14 the Board of County Commissioners agreed to a December vote to increase vehicle registration fees from $19 to $56 to fund a portion of the $550 million to $850 million needed to replace or retrofit the bridge.
The County is also moving forward with its Roads Capital Improvement Plan, a 20-year vision for transportation investments that will provide the greatest public benefit. The plan is currently in the final stages of public participation, and voting for its final approval will take place January 2020. Priorities highlighted in the plan include:
Improving SE Stark St. east of Troutdale Rd
Upgrading Division St. in East County
Improving safety on Skyline Blvd., Scholls Ferry, Germantown, and Cornelius Pass Roads
“We’re really working to create an opportunity for this region to make a major investment in our future transportation system,” Vega Pederson said.
The East County Issue Forum is a monthly event hosted by Multnomah County, the City of Gresham, and East County schools. Convened by Commissioner Stegmann, the forum seeks to provide information and discussion around priorities facing residents east of 82nd Ave.
The forum’s annual open house showcase is scheduled for Thursday, December 5th from 6-8pm at Gresham City Hall. Past presenters and community partners are invited to reserve tables sharing their latest updates and work in East County. To find out more, contact District4@multco.us or 503-988-5213.