SALEM, Ore. — The 2017 Oregon Legislature pumped $5.3 billion into the state’s highway system over the next decade — the largest transportation package in decades.
Today, 15 projects are under construction, funded by the legislation that created Keep Oregon Moving.
About 80 other projects are in different stages of planning, such as design work and obtaining rights of way, according to agency data examined by the Statesman Journal.
And even more projects will unfold as the funding legislation generates revenue in the years ahead.
By some measures, the Oregon Department of Transportation is doing well.
Roadwork and behind the scenes design have started on a handful of projects, including repaving I-5 from Salem to Woodburn. Other projects include upgrading or replacing bridges, fortifying highways against the threat of earthquakes and enhancing interchanges to reduce congestion.
And the agency is posting transparency metrics on a website so taxpayers can track the contracts in real time.
But advocates and agency officials alike warn it’s not nearly enough.
Oregon’s transportation system faces long-term challenges not included in the 2017 legislation.
More state bridges will need upgrades in the coming years. And rural roads continue to be a high-need area, especially for legislators representing districts outside Oregon’s urban areas.
The plan passed in 2017 had a fourfold aim: Preserving the existing system of roads and bridges; reducing congestion, particularly in the Portland-metro area; increasing transportation choices, such as mass transit and bicycle paths; and public accountability and transparency.
Here’s a look at what the plan has done so far, what’s ahead and what the state’s needs are.
Unmet bridge needs
Oregon’s infrastructure needs are highlighted on an industry report card released this month by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Despite Oregon’s planned investment in infrastructure, the state still received an overall grade of C-, a mediocre outcome that reflects the state’s long-term and unfunded needs in critical areas like bridges, roads, levees and wastewater.
The needs are heightened by an awareness that Oregon faces a 20% chance of a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which puts older bridges at risk.
To put it in context, nearly 20% of Oregon’s 8,161 bridges and culverts are at risk of becoming structurally deficient in the near future, the report found. Bridge maintenance needs are expected to grow and require nearly three times the funding from House Bill 2017.
State transportation officials say Oregon needs to stay vigilant about the state’s needs, despite the benefits from HB2017.
“It truly is a race that probably doesn’t have a finish line,” ODOT Director Matt Garrett said at recent press event with the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Oregonians are already starting to pay for the transportation improvements. A 10-cent gasoline tax is unfolding in four stages. It started with a 4-cent increase in 2018.
Three more 2-cent increases are slated for 2020, 2022 and 2024, provided the state meets accountability measures set by the law. Those include reporting information transparently to the public about project details, costs and schedules.
That work has already started, even though work on most of the road projects hasn’t started yet. The state launched its transparency, accountability and performance website in January, which is required by the state law.
“The public, media and stakeholders now have access for the first time ever to condition data on bridges and pavement in every single city and county in the state as well as for the state highway system,” said Travis Brouwer, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Transportation.
While each piece runs on a slightly different schedule, in a way, it’s all part of a broader plan, state officials said.
“We have taken this very seriously and really treated it like a transportation highway project in terms of having a project plan and deliverables and due dates,” Brouwer said.
Student safety: Gervais staffer performs CPR to help save eighth-grade girl
Dollars can change
The public also can see if a project has come in below or above its budget.
That could easily become a factor with the planned Center Street bridge between west Salem and downtown, which may cost about $100 million for seismic upgrades instead of the $40 million lawmakers budgeted in 2017.
“If one project comes in under budget, we can ship that money to another project in the region,” Brouwer said.
At this point, there aren’t any major delays anticipated, state officials said.
That can change, if the state’s past performance is any indication. Data from state transportation projects in 2018 show about 80 percent of nearly 100 projects were completed on time.
The bridge construction could start in 2024 and other projects are spaced out even further into the future.
Interstate 5 paving
Elsewhere, there are visible signs of work.
Road crews began work this month on a 12.4-mile stretch of Interstate 5 between Woodburn and Salem.
The interstate has ruts in vehicle wheel paths that put motorists at a risk of hydroplaning in rainy weather, transportation officials say.
Paving began northbound from Brooks to Woodburn.
Nightly lane closures are expected between Sunday evenings and Friday mornings. One lane can be closed between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. A second lane can be shut down between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., giving motorists delays of up to 30 minutes.
During the lane closures, motorists can still travel north and south.
Work on the $17 million project is expected to last through October.
Upcoming Salem-area projects
Most of the work is on the horizon, including in the Salem area.
For example, design work starts this year for a project that will widen Interstate 5 between Keubler Boulevard in south Salem and the Delaney Road interchange to relieve congestion on the southbound side.
Construction work is due to start in 2021 on the $35.4 million project and includes replacing a bridge over the Commercial Street northbound off-ramp and reconstruction of the southbound Commercial Street on-ramp and thee southbound Delaney Road ramps to get on and off the interstate.
In 2020, construction will start on a nearly $9 million project that adds sidewalks and bicycle lanes on Oregon 214 in Silverton between Smith Street and Pioneer Drive.
Small-scale projects are in the pipeline too. Pedestrian safety improvements are planned at the intersection of Oregon 214 and Jefferson Street in Silverton.
The $750,000 project will have a pedestrian island, flashing beacon and lights. It’s expected to go out for a bid late this year, with construction in 2020.
Oregon’s transportation system faces long-term challenges not included in the 2017 legislation. More state bridges will need upgrades in the coming years. And rural roads continue to be a high-need area. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)
House Appropriations Committee approves FY2020 transportation budget
WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday approved the fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill on a vote of 29-21.
The legislation funds the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies, including the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
In total, the legislation provides $137.1 billion in budgetary resources, an increase of $6 billion above the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion above the President’s budget request. The bill includes $75.8 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level and $17.3 billion over the President’s 2020 budget request.
“This year’s Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding bill represents a positive, inclusive vision for our country,” said House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Chairman David Price. “It makes forward-looking investments in our housing and transportation infrastructure, while ensuring concerted attention to safety, the needs of the most vulnerable, and resilience. It will benefit all American communities — urban and rural — and lays the foundation for economic growth and opportunity. I’m thankful for the collaborative effort by all our members to pass the bill through committee and look forward to working together to enact it into law.”
“The Department of Transportation should prioritize safety, and this bill would equip the Department to fund safety upgrades on our roads and rails as well as safety research,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “The bill also would provide adequate funding for the federal share of one of the most important transportation projects in our country to advance commuter safety and the economy – the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Additionally, robust investments in the bill, such as increases to CDBG, HOME, and Lead and Healthy Homes, would make our communities heathier and safer, and critical language would protect the most vulnerable, including undocumented individuals and their U.S. citizen children and LGBTQ youth, against eviction. With this bill, we have the opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and fundamentally improve the lives of our constituents.”
For the Department of Transportation, the bill provides a total of $86.6 billion in total budgetary resources, $167 million above the 2019 enacted level and $3.7 billion above the President Donald J. Trump’s budget request.
Of this amount, some of the items the bill includes are:
- $677 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $10 million above the 2019 enacted level and $1 million above the President’s budget request. None of the funds can be used to enforce the use of ELDs by carriers transporting livestock.
- $48.9 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $404 million below the 2019 enacted level and $1.7 billion above the President’s budget request.
- $1.75 billion for discretionary Highway Infrastructure Programs, $1.5 billion below the 2019 enacted level and $1.45 billion above the President’s budget request.
- $1 billion for the Newsal Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $44 million above the 2019 enacted level and $81 million above the President’s budget request.
John Christner Trucking’s John Mallory wins TCA safety award
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Truckload Carriers Association has named John Mallory, John Christner Trucking’s director of safety, as the 2019 TCA Safety Professional of the Year and made him recipient of the Clare C. Casey Award.
The award was presented during the TCA’s 38th Annual Safety & Security Division Meeting in Memphis.
John Christner Trucking is located at Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
The award is bestowed upon a trucking industry professional whose actions and achievements have made a profound contribution to enhancing safety on North America’s highways.
“John has an absolute passion for our industry, particularly making it safer,” said John Christner Trucking’s vice president of risk management Shannon Crowley. “He spends much of his free time in pursuit of just that.”
In addition to being employed by John Christner Trucking for 13 years in its safety department, as well as a third-generation professional truck driver for more than two decades, Mallory has an extensive list of accomplishments.
Crowley said Mallory was persistent in obtaining his safety professional credentials once arriving at the company.
“His tenacity is what got him in the door and that same tenacity is what led him to achieving his Certified Director of Safety designation and becoming our director of safety,” Crowley said.
During his career, Mallory has served on the Oklahoma Safety Management Council for 12 years, is a member of the Oklahoma Trucking Association, and serves on the American Trucking Associations’ Safety Management Council for driver recognition and accident review.
He is also a recipient of the John Christner Trucking, Inc.’s Pete Osborne Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017; Oklahoma State Management Council’s Past Chairman Award; and Oklahoma Trucking Association’s 2012 Safety Professional of the year.
He serves as a judge, chairman and as “The Duck” mascot at the Oklahoma Truck Driving Championships.
“John is a great leader in his church as well as other organizations such as Truckers Against Trafficking,” shares his wife, Dianne Mallory, who nominated him for this award. “He is most loved by many for his role as ‘The Duck.'”
Crowley said Mallory is a pillar in his community. He serves on the Tulsa Tech Truck Driving School advisory council, is a member, usher and greeter at Life Church in Owasso and Catoosa, Oklahoma, and is active in the Owasso Police Department K9 unit training canines and officers how to maneuver around and inside 18-wheelers. He also participates in the annual Sapulpa Truck Touch.
On behalf of John Christner Trucking, Mallory has accepted numerous Fleet Safety Awards from TCA, several other industry associations, and both Walmart and Tyson Foods.
“John is always eager to learn, willing to participate, and simply will not be outworked. If there is someone more deserving of this recognition, I haven’t met them,” Crowley said.
Nominees for TCA’s award must exemplify leadership and demonstrate the goals of protecting lives and property in the motor transportation industry while serving their company, industry, and the motoring public. The award is named after Clare Casey, a safety professional who actively served TCA from 1979 until 1989. He was devoted to ensuring that all truckload safety professionals build a strong safety network, and was instrumental in forming the first annual Safety & Security Division meeting in 1982. The first Clare C. Casey Award was presented in 1990, one year after his death.
FMCSA accepting applications for military pilot program for 18- to 20-year-olds
WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Monday it is accepting applications for a pilot program to permit 18- to 20-year-olds who possess the U.S. military equivalent of a commercial driver’s to operate large trucks in interstate commerce.
“This program will help our country’s veterans and reservists transition into good-paying jobs while addressing the shortage of truck drivers in our country,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
As directed by Section 5404 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the pilot program will allow a limited number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 to operate large trucks in interstate commerce — provided they possess the military equivalent of a CDL and are sponsored by a participating trucking company. During the pilot program, which is slated to run for up to three years, the safety records of these drivers will be compared to the records of a control group of drivers.
“We are excited to launch this program to help the brave men and women who serve our country explore employment opportunities in the commercial motor vehicle industry. With the nation’s economy reaching new heights, the trucking industry continues to need drivers and have job openings. We encourage veterans and reservists to apply and to learn more about this exciting new program,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez.
The program was revealed by Chao in July 2018 during a news conference in Omaha, Nebraska, which was attended by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., himself a military veteran having served in the United States Air Force United States Air Force from 1985 to 2014, reaching the rank of brigadier general.
“This innovative program offers a way for our younger veterans and reservists to transition to the civilian workforce. I personally thank Secretary Chao and officials with the DOT who continue to find ways to utilize the training and talent of the men and women who served in uniform for our country,” Bacon said.
To learn more about this program and how to apply, visit
For complete information on USDOT’s Veteran transitions programs into the civilian careers, visit