More construction coming?

With the bipartisan infrastructure package now signed into law, Oregon is preparing to spend the extra funding coming its way.

Last week, the Oregon Department of Transportation discussed the new funding and what it is expected to be spent on.

Travis Brouwer, assistant director for revenue, finance and compliance, said the money will make a big difference in the state, especially in the more crowded metro areas.

“It’s truly historic in size and scope,” Brouwer said. “That’s for all types of infrastructure, everything from wastewater and water to broadband and transportation and other areas of infrastructure as well.”

Brouwer said not all the money in the package is new money, but he said there will be a lot of new funding as well as $100 billion set aside in a discretionary fund that will be doled out via grants.

“We are all going to be getting our grant writing pens out and spending a lot of time trying to bring additional money back to Oregon,” Brouwer said. “This is one of known unknowns. With that much money on the table, we know there are going to be opportunities, but we don’t know how much money Oregon will bring home.”

Brouwer said traditionally Oregon receives 1% of federal funding, which would bring an additional $1 billion to the state.

Some of the projects being eyed with the discretionary money is interstate work around Portland as well as major bridge repairs in the state.

Brouwer said the package funds the traditional highway funding the state receives for five year and adds $1.2 billion for transportation repairs and $200 million for public transportation.

Exactly where the money is going to be spent has not been decided yet, but Brouwer said those decisions will be made quickly.

“The Oregon Transportation Commission is going to be working fairly quickly in order to get this money out the door to projects,” he said. “Normally, whenever we do our statewide transportation improvement program, from the time the commission allocates funding among programs to the time we actually get the project out the door, we have about four years. This go around, we have about four months. This federal funding is use-it-or-lose-it. If you don’t use it in the fiscal year, you lost it. We don’t want to do that.”

One are that will be a focus is repairing the state’s aging bridge infrastructure. Brouwer said the additional funding for bridges is desperately needed.

“Badges have been the single largest area of investment in the bill,” he said. “That’s a good thing. We know that we have significant needs on the state’s bridges. The majority of ODOT’s bridges are over 50 years old, and that’s about the age you would expect them to be headed toward retirement.”

Brouwer said there are 2,800 bridges in the state highway system, and Oregon traditionally replaces three a year.

An additional $200 million will come to Oregon for public transportation, but Brouwer said almost all of it will be for Portland, Salem and Eugene since they have the largest public transportation systems. Other communities will have an opportunity to gets grants to make improvements.

Before final decisions are made, the transportation commission will host public meetings during which time the public will be permitted to comment on how the money should be spent. He said a meeting in January will give time for public comment.


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