West 11th EmX Approval

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Do you approve or disapprove of the Lane Transit District building EmX bus rapid transit on West 11th Avenue?

For complete poll results, click here.

City of Eugene Maintaining its Roads

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

How would you rate the job the City of Eugene is doing maintaining its roads?

For complete poll results, click here.

Lane County Maintaining its Roads

Monday, April 28th, 2014

How would you rate the job Lane County is doing maintaining its roads?

For complete poll results, click here.

Oregon Legislature in 2003 passed the Oregon Transportation Improvement Act of 2003, securing funding for the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Willamette River in Lane County. by Pat Farr

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

 

Whilamut Passage Bridge in Lane County

On Saturday July 26 the Register Guard published an article, “Right on track,” about a ceremony that celebrated the upcoming opening of the Whilamut Passage Interstate 5 bridge over the Willamette River in Lane County. What the article and the ceremony failed to detail was the yeoman’s work done by the 2003 Oregon Legislature in securing the method and means to pay for the bridge.

After the 2003 Legislature initialized funding for a massive upgrade of Oregon’s failing bridges by passing House Bill 2041, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) signed a contract with Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners (Oregon BDP), the private-sector firm selected to manage the $1.4 billion state bridge replacement program.  The selection of this particular contractor was based in part on their responses to the criteria listed below.

The Department included in their letter to the Emergency Board the specific actions proposed by Oregon BDP to meet the requirements set by the Legislature in their report. The Bill was written after being worked  by Representative Alan Brown’s (R-Newport) House Interim Committee on Transportation.  Because it was an increase in taxation, it was referred to the House Revenue Committee, chaired by Representative Lane Shetterly (R-Dallas).  House Revenue consisted of Chair Shetterly, Republicans Pat Farr, Vicki Berger, Wayne Scott and Max Williams, and Democrats Joanne Verger, Phil Barnhart, Mark Hass and Elaine Hopson. All Revenue Bills in the Oregon Legislature must pass through the House Revenue Committee.

On June 18 2003, while sitting on the House Revenue Committee I voted to send House Bill 2041 to the floor of the House with a do-pass recommendation. Five days later on June 25 the bill passed the House having received the required three-fifths Constitutional majority.  On July 23, House Bill 2041 came back to the House having taken on small amendments in the Oregon Senate and received final passage. 

Based upon the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives and subsequent passage in the Senate and signature by the Governor, The 2003 Legislature directed the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to contract with the private sector in managing the bridge repair and replacement program and the overall implementation of House Bill 2041 (2003), otherwise known as the Oregon Transportation Investment Act of 2003.

We required the following:

1.  Ease of traffic movement–contracting strategies that keep traffic moving will minimize effects on other industries and the public;

2.  Expedient delivery–quick project delivery will allow freedom of freight movement and ensures that products can be delivered throughout the state; and,

3.  Involvement of Oregon construction firms and employees–the use of Oregon firms and employees, emerging small businesses and minorities will result in economic stimulus that will benefit the state overall.

(many thanks are due to Scott Williams and Hamilton construction for meeting and exceeding these mandates)

This set the wheels in motion for a $1.4 billion dollar edict to replace or repair of hundreds of bridges in Oregon, including the due-to-fail Interstate 5 bridge over the Willamette River . On July 26 2013 I attended the ceremony for the opening of the Whilamut Passage  Interstate 5 bridge over the Willamette River.

I watched from the audience as elected officials who later joined the 2003 Legislature in its efforts toward getting the Whilamut Passage bridge built accepted applause.

Does the “City of Eugene” oppose coal trains to Coos Bay? by Pat Farr

Monday, October 8th, 2012

 

On October 22 the Eugene City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution which would “signal the City of Eugene’s opposition to the transport of coal by train through the city for export via the Port of Coos Bay.”  See a related Forum Lane article here: “Eugene City Council considers a blunderbuss approach to economy and employment in Coos County.” There will be a discussion by a “panel of experts” at tonight’s 5:30 City Council meeting.

A host of elected officials and concerned citizens oppose such a resolution, including Senator Joanne Verger, (D-Coos Bay), House Co-Speaker Representative Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) and many more.

In fact, Congressman Peter DeFazio supports the train–see Forum Lane article “Congressman Peter DeFazio has no objections to coal port in Coos Bay.” The article contains newspaper links.

While opposition to the coal train and the associated rail line and deep water port have been vigorous, the main objections seem to be in three general areas:

1.  Coal trains “up to two miles long” and, “as many as ten a day” will block road intersections in Eugene for hours.

2.  Coal dust filtering from the train will create a film of residue the route of the train.  ” An estimated pound of coal dust per car per mile…is lost to the wind.”  Gillette, Wyoming to Coos Bay is 1069 miles.  If trains have only 100 cars and there are, lets say, five per day, that would equal 534,500 pounds of coal per day “lost to the wind.”  That’s a half million pounds of profit.  Per day.  Hmm.

and,

3.   Global warming.  Burning coal in Asia is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

For balance I will provide three general arguments that support running the trains to Coos Bay:

1.  Private money from the companies operating the trains will provide new infrastructure in Western Oregon, including funding the renovation of the Coos Bay Rail Link and the deep water port in North Bend/Coos Bay.

2.  Building the infrastructure and the busy dock will provide both long- and medium-term, high paying jobs in Lane, Coos and other Oregon counties.

3.  Unemployment has caused a sharp rise in poverty levels in the Bay Area–schools there show a disproportionate high percentage of kids needing free and reduced rate lunches (kids are going hungry).  See Forum Lane, “If it were easy to forget about hungry kids…”

All of these questions need to be addressed.  The panel discussion tonight should provide answers.  I will report on my findings, based upon expert testimony, after the panel discussion.

Bus Rapid Transit decisions in west Eugene. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

 

A Lane Transit District bus, spotted in West Eugene last week. This is an advertisement on the bus, not a public message.

I am in favor of Lane Transit District’s (LTD) West 11th via 6th and 7th Avenue EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) line addition.  This leg of the BRT system will link the downtown Lane Transit District terminal via Oregon Highway 99 to a western terminal at Commercial Street on West 11th Avenue.  West 11th Avenue is also Oregon Highway 126.

 
Serious concerns have arisen during the planning phase of the link and have been voiced by a broad coalition of members of the community.  Most of the concerns are reasonable and valid and either have been or will be addressed.  As with any undertaking of this magnitude is not likely that everybody involved will be satisfied with the outcome.

 
BRT, and public transit in general, is an integral component of Lane County’s transportation plan.  As fuel prices increase it is ever more urgent and desirable for travelers, particularly in the metropolitan area, to access public transit. BRT offers the ever growing and densifying urban area a means of traveling for business, recreation and public purposes in a dependable and rapid manner.
Completion of a BRT system, including routes that will eventually cover the metropolitan area of Eugene/Springfield and beyond, is essential for assuring dependable and affordable access to facilities and amenities.

 
The decision more than two years ago by the Eugene City Council to pursue the West 11th option over the Highway 99/Bethel option was unfortunate at best.  A route linking the large growing urban area of northwest Eugene to the downtown core and the University of Oregon/Springfield BRT routes (that are already in place) would have addressed imminent needs more directly and would have met with less opposition.  The route to Bethel would have caused less business and thoroughfare interuption and could have built a greater general public confidence in the future buildout of the system.

 
In light of that unfortunate decision, along with the Eugene City Council and Mayor’s radical decision to kill the long-planned West Eugene Parkway, we find ourselves in a less than ideal position to clearly satisfy the concerns of the opponents of the EmX line. Nonetheless, the ultimate successful build-out of the system, including multi-governmental financial support, places us in the postion of needing to approve the project.

 
Concerns that a large amount of Federal tax dollars are being expended on the system have been articulately stated.  That being noted, in the United States one of the main functions of federal government has been and will remain providing integrated transportation systems.  The Interstate Highway system, airports and US Highways are examples.

 

Historically the US government has backed large transportation public works projects.  This project will be one such example of the government’s role in providing roads and addressing transportation needs.  The tax money that will be spent on the construction of the project in Lane County will be granted from a list of competing projects nation wide.  The money spent in Lane County comes from a large pool that is funding nation-wide projects.

 
The jobs and infrastructure that Lane Transit District’s project will provide will not only put people to work but will also facilitate public transportation long into the future.

 
There will of course be business disruptions during the construction phase of the project.  That is unavoidable, but can be minimized and ultimately improve access to existing businesses along the route and future businesses and residences that will be developed as we densify our urban area.

 
During the construction phase it will be important to make certain that minimal interruption of business occurs.  Contruction will be staged such that small sections of the route will be affected at any one time.  Concerns that road building will take place along the entire route throughout the duration of the construction have been registered and will be addressed.

 
In order to be responsive to individual business operators, driveways will be kept open and signage in place to direct traffic into the affected business.  I will suggest that a contact person will be available at all times to respond to the changing nature of the project build-out, and that if any business operators have concerns that arise due to unpredicted changes in building they will have a direct means to report the concern via phone or electronic media.

 
A part of the ongoing EmX project will be a study of other subsequent components of the BRT system, including a McVay Highway link to Lane Community College and a link to Bethel.

 

Rapid  public transit exists in a large number of cities and metropolitan areas in the United States.  By moving forward at this time Lane County can have a model system that will address the needs of public transit and supplement individual vehicle travel long into the future.

 

 

Pat Farr is a Eugene City Councilor representing Ward 6 in Northwest Eugene and a Lane County Commissioner-elect (presumptive) from the North Eugene District.

 

Congressman Peter DeFazio has no objections to coal port in Coos Bay. by Pat Farr

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

 

As reported in The World dated August 16 2012, Representative Peter DeFazio is in support of efforts to develop the deep water port at Coos Bay/North Bend into a terminus for shipping coal overseas.

An excerpt from the article:

COOS BAY — In what could be a blow to environmentalists, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio says he has few qualms with a proposal to build a coal export terminal in Coos Bay.
In a town hall meeting on Wednesday attended by 130 people, Oregon’s 4th District Democrat waded into a debate that has divided the Port of Coos Bay from the Eugene City Council.
In July, the council raised concerns that coal trains en route from Wyoming to Coos Bay would spread dust that would harm Eugene residents and food production.
The council added that exporting coal fanned the flames of global warming.

According to the article, Representative DeFazio has stated that, “You’re not going to facilitate closing down coal plants by prohibiting the sale of U.S. coal,” and that protests against the plan “ignore reality.”

To read the entire article, click here.

A Coos Bay Rail Link engine photographed recently on the Coos Bay Rail Link west of Eugene. The rail link is championed by Rep. Peter DeFazio and welcomed by the entire Bay Area community.

To read more in ForumLane about the rail link go here.

Eugene City Council will–phew–hear broad public input on the Coos Bay Rail Link in September. by Pat Farr

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

 

An engine on the Coos Bay Rail Link in west Eugene

After a close call last week, the Eugene City Council discussion about the Coos Bay Rail Link has been postponed.

In a July 11 Forum Lane post, If it were easy to forget about hungry kids, I called for a the Council to delay decision making until more could be heard from a broader base of stakeholders and until after a standard Eugene public process could be held.

As reported in the July 15 Register Guard, that delay has been granted.

Coos Bay Rail number 3877--she's a beauty!

Resolution 5065 first came up for a discussion and vote last Monday. South Eugene City Councilor Alan Zelenka had the support of other South and Central Eugene Councilors Andrea Ortiz, Betty Taylor and George Brown, but North and West Eugene Councilors Chris Pryor and Mike Clark joined me in insisting more time and input was needed before a decision of this magnitude could be made. Councilor George Poling was absent.

The motion was on the brink of passage without broad public input until the move to avoid it was raised.

The Council will begin to hear testimony from Port of Coos Bay officials and others beginning after our break in early September.

For related stories and links go to the Economics and Environment topic here at Forum Lane.

 

If it were easy to forget about hungry kids…by Pat Farr

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

 

The Coos Bay rail line, soon to be repaired and reactivated. This time looking west toward the deep water port at Coos Bay and North Bend. A thoroughfare to new jobs and opportunities for Oregonians.

 

It would be simple to make a decision about whether or not to support coal trains passing through Lane County en-route to the deep water port at Coos Bay if it were just as easy to forget about hungry kids there.
Coos County has for many years now been a hotbed of kids living in poverty and needing the support of free and reduced lunch program meals at school to not be hungry during the school year.  But unlike Lane County, kids there don’t have as strong a level of support during the non-school summer months that FOOD for Lane County provides for kids here through its  well-developed summer lunch program.  Kids go hungry.

Read the associated story including links to statistics here.

Extreme unemployment levels in the County have caused working parents to either lose that status or be forced into lower paying service jobs as the timber industry died locally.
Reopening the rail link to Coos Bay, which will ultimately generate hundreds or thousands of jobs both in the Bay Area of Oregon and in the transportation hub of Eugene/Springfield, is key to reinvigorating the deep water port.  Regular rail shipments will ensure a steady work load for men and women in the region,  transporting and loading goods for overseas shipment (thereby helping balance our trade deficit with foreign nations).
I will not stand by idly and let rogue coal dust foul the lungs of our next generation in Lane County.  I was born in Sheffield, England–the country’s third largest city–a steel town in the middle of coal country.  My Dad was from Newcastle.  I have witnessed what coal can do to people’s lungs and lives.  I have lived it much more closely than most folks who enjoy our robust and healthy atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest.
That being said, work is being done to mitigate the dusting of coal and to identify the magnitude of the pollution in Lane County.  Let’s wait until we find out more about the details before we pull the plug permanently on better jobs.  And if the details show imminent and long-term serious health threats we should do all we can to prevent that.  I am pleased that the Council voted to delay the decision to pass Resolution 5065 last Monday and allow for a Council work session to discuss it.
Now the Eugene City Council should allow for the standard public process that is typical of decision making in this city and provide a public hearing and a broad based input process before making any decision that would give the City Manager walking orders that would erase any possibility of safe shipment of coal.

Eugene City Council considers a blunderbuss approach to economy and employment in Coos County. by Pat Farr

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

 

An 18th-century blunderbuss, used for close-in fighting when it was unimportant to protect objects around the intended target

 

On Monday July 9 2012 the Eugene City Council will consider Resolution 5065, put forward by Councilor Alan Zelenka, that would, among other things, direct the City Manager to “explore whether there are local, state or federal laws…that can be used to prevent the transport of coal through the City, and if so, take reasonable steps to prevent that transport.”

The resolution is designed to prevent the transport of coal to the Port of Coos Bay for shipment overseas.

The research background listed as the reason for the Resolution is, as stated in the Council Agenda Item Summary, that “Support for council action on this resolution was expressed during public testimony at City Council meetings…”

No work session has been held and no public testimony has been broadly solicited.  Monday night public forum testimony and accompanying emails have been the sole venue for public comment.  Monday night public forums are renowned for groups with a particular interest stacking the testimony.  Usually this approach results in a more carefully studied and engineered approach by the Council, as with the recent issue regarding raising goats in back yards inside the City.  At other times the public testimony approach has been completely disregarded.

While commendable in its intent, the resolution unfortunately calls for the City to take action on an issue that has not been fully defined.  It calls for immediate action that would find ways to stop any kind of coal transport through the city, no matter what findings surface regarding the actual dusting of coal from the trains in the Eugene area or what technology is employed to prevent any sifting dust.

Should findings surface that support coal dust would be spread dangerously into our area it would be prudent–essential–that we take means to protect people living here. The resolution does not take into account emerging methods of sealing transport cars and calls for the City to begin lobbying on behalf of the ban on transport immediately.  Should manufacturers such as Oregon’s  Greenbrier Companies, which designs and produces specialized rail cars, provide fully sealed cars for the coal, the resolution would still remain in effect despite the impact being fully mitigated.

While taking aim at what may prove to be a legitimate target, like shooting a blunderbuss much adjacent damage will be done.  Even if technology or research subsequently determines that any threat has been mitigated, the result of the resolution would remain, and its lasting effect on the economy of Oregon’s Bay Area would continue to be felt.

Congressman Peter DeFazio expedited the reopening of the Coos Bay rail line in order to bring jobs to one of America’s hardest-hit economic areas.  Coos County unemployment rate hovers over 10% and more than half of the kids in schools in Coos County are eligible for free and reduced price lunches (click here for statistics).

The Congressman recently announced a decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to obligate $13.5 million in competitive grant funding to finish repairs on the Coos Bay rail line and restore rail service vital to the coastal economy (click here for the full story).

 

The recently reopened Coos Bay rail line, looking east toward Eugene from Greenhill Road

 

By acting on this resolution now (before the actual execution and impact of the rail transport is determined) the Council would create a negative impact that would likely cause the deep water terminus in Coos Bay–job creation that would be made possible by the proposed train transport–to be built elsewhere.  The result would be a continuation of the economic slide that Southwest Oregon is mired in.