State transportation officials are hailing Congress’ passage of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill pushed by Democratic President Joe Biden last week, saying it will bring more than $1 billion in funding for Oregon roads, bridges and transit.
The state is still analyzing the bill to determine exactly how much funding ODOT will receive and where it will spend the money, but officials say the funds will be pointed at projects benefiting drivers, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said in a release that it also plans to use portions of the funding to help maintain roads and bridges and address climate change.
“Many projects are ready for construction, and others are in the final stages of planning so we should be able to move quickly,” ODOT said in the Nov. 7 release.
Additional details will be released this week, officials said, and ODOT leadership will be holding a press conference to address more specifics.
Nationally, the bill includes funding for roads, bridges, ports, rail transit, safe water, the power grid, broadband internet and more, with promises to reach almost every corner of the country.
It’s a historic investment that the president has compared to the building of the transcontinental railroad and Interstate Highway System, and that the White House has projected will add an average of about 2 million jobs per year over the coming decade.
Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Bob Van Brocklin called it the “largest infrastructure finance bill in history” and will allow the state to “make real progress on Oregon’s transportation priorities.”
“Once signed by the president, the $1.2 trillion bill will allow ODOT to address a number of major challenges in our state,” Van Brocklin said in a statement.
“Specifically, some $1.2 billion will be allocated to our state in the next five years for highway and bridge construction and maintenance, safety improvements, mass transit investments, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, electric vehicle charging stations, and efforts to reduce carbon emissions from transportation sources.”
Van Brocklin said, specifically, the new funding will help address increasing congestion, freight mobility, earthquake recovery preparedness, passenger rail, and other elements of a comprehensive mobility system.
“All of this work will focus on improving our economy, our environment, and the quality of life of all Oregonians,” he said. “Working together, we can attain this vision.
“The Oregon Transportation Commission and ODOT are deeply grateful for the hard work of our federal delegation to make this historic legislation a reality. We look forward to putting these new resources to work to build a better future for the people of Oregon.”
Oregon’s congressional delegation — all of whom voted for the infrastructure package with the exception of Cliff Bentz, the state’s lone Republican representative — also hailed the bill’s package this week.
“I’ve said for a long time: you can’t have a big league economy with little league infrastructure,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement.
“And today, Oregon and the American West will finally get the significant investments needed to deal with catastrophic wildfires and severe drought, build back hard-hit rural economies, improve access to public transit and make sure clean drinking water is a right for everyone.”
Key measures of the bill include $5 billion to secure the country’s power grid from extreme weather and natural disasters to prevent severe wildfires and another $5 billion to help farmers, ranchers and communities respond to drought.
In Oregon, $162 million will be allocated for Klamath habitat restoration work through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and $250 million will be secured to improve drinking water quality and services for tribal communities in Oregon and nationwide — including specific help for the emergency water situation on the Warm Springs Reservation.
In addition, $6 billion will go toward wildfire risk mitigation and forest health treatments, ensuring existing collaboratives like the one addressing the massive Bootleg Fire in south Oregon, can access up to $100 million of additional funding.
A huge investment — $65 billion — is promised to connect every American to high-quality, reliable broadband internet access, including in rural communities, with the state expecting to receive a minimum of $100 million to help provide coverage to the estimated 140,000 Oregonians who currently lack it.
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