Schrader in the News
Oregon will receive over $5 billion in 5 years from Biden's infrastructure bill
Oregon is expected to receive at least $5.3 billion in federal funding for roads and other infrastructure when Pres. Joe Biden signs the long-debated $1.2 trillion bill into law, according to estimates from the White House.
Most of that money, $3.4 billion, will be earmarked for roads; Oregon also will receive large amounts for bridges, public transportation, electric vehicle chargers, internet, airports and drinking water filtration and distribution systems from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
"This is the biggest investment in our highway and bridge system since Dwight D. Eisenhower,” said Representative Kurt Schrader, a Democrat from Canby. “Come on man, that’s 60, 70 years ago. Biggest investment ever.
“Biggest investment ever in public transit to really get the bus systems going the way we need them, to connect all parts of Marion County and Polk County and the rest of the state here.”
Biden is expected to sign the bill into law on Monday.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is expecting to receive about $1.2 billion of initial money.
The rest of the $3.4 billion for roads will go to counties, cities and metropolitan planning organizations.
According to ODOT, Salem will receive a total of $34 million in funding for roads in the next five years, an increase of $8 million, and Eugene will receive $35 million, also an increase of $8 million.
Public transportation in Salem also will receive $33 million, an increase of $8 million, and Eugene’s public transit will receive $67 million, an increase of $17 million.
According to estimates by the White House, Oregon will reap huge amounts of money over the next five years:
The funding hasn’t been allocated to specific projects, but Schrader said he’s looking forward to playing “a little bit of Santa Claus in a fiscally responsible way to our communities.”
Some projects that have been in the planning stages could now get the money they need to get completed, like the Donald Aurora Interchange and the Newberg Bypass.
“We’re going to be able to do things we could only imagine would have taken maybe another decade to accomplish,” Schrader said. “And for some of the smaller towns in the district, if you’re up at Detroit Lake … you’re going to have the opportunity to rebuild your water system with federal help. And that community, the tax base is destroyed.
“These smaller communities up in Gates, Mill City, Detroit, etc., Lyons, we’re going to have an opportunity to really partner with these folks and build the infrastructure that they could never afford otherwise.”
Infrastructure like water filtration and distribution as well as roads in cities like Detroit and Gates were damaged or destroyed in the Labor Day Wildfires in 2020.
How much money will flow to those communities is yet to be determined.
Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron said the county has eyed or contributed to several projects like Donald’s expansion of its sewer system, Mill City and Gates’ sewer system, Detroit and Idanha’s sewer system and Aumsville’s water system.
He said those are ripe for federal funds.
“Can we actually move as quickly as the money flows to do these projects?” Cameron said. “That’s a challenge in today’s world.
“I was talking to a contractor today that had seven guys who were supposed to come on his job and three guys called off. The money can flow. We’ll have the projects dialed up when the money flowed in.”
State and local agencies also will be able to apply for many pools of competitive grant funds from the federal government.
“I put a slide up of Secretary of the Transportation Pete Buittigieg because he’s going to be our new best friend,” ODOT assistant director for revenue and finance Travis Brouwer said. “He’s got $100 billion dollars that he’s going to be able to dole out for discretionary grant opportunities for all different types of transportation programs across the country -- road, transit rail, airports and other modes as well.
“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 ODOT will go after grant funds for large Portland-area projects like the interstate bridge replacement and the Interstate 5 Rose Quarter.
He said funds made available in Oregon House Bill 2017, a $5.3 billion transportation package, gives the state the initial funds it needs to be competitive in going after those pools.
That means Oregon could end up with more than the initial $5 billion.
“The feds love people who bring most of the money to the table and all they have to do is provide the last dollar in to finish off the finance plan for a major project,” Brouwer said.
Oregon is going to have to spend a chunk of the money quickly.
About $150 million of the initial money it will receive must be allocated in the current fiscal year and the Oregon Transportation Commission will have to decide what programs it can get to that point quickly.
Brouwer said it usually takes four years once the OTC funds a program before it gets started.
“This go around, we have more like four months,” he said. “This federal funding is 'use it or lose it.' If it’s not obligated to projects in the federal fiscal year, we lose the money. We have no intention of doing so.”
Amtrak will receive $66 billion to improve service from the bill, and has the potential to significantly impact the line from Eugene and Salem north into Washington and Canada.
The Oregon Transportation Commission will receive a briefing about the additional funds it will receive at its Nov. 18 meeting and will decide by March how to spend about a third of the $1.2 billion it expects to receive from the bill.
For months, Biden’s signature infrastructure bill was held up as it was connected with the now $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill that includes things like child care, health care and climate change.
But a vote on the infrastructure bill in the House of Representatives finally took place Nov. 5, and now is waiting to be signed.
“We’re trying to get it implemented as soon as possible so the agencies could actually have the money in hand and be ready for the next building season, but we got disrespected," Schrader said of the beltway politics. "But we hung in there, despite people trying to put pressure on us, we said no, this is a good bi-partisan bill, this is what America wants, we’re going to hang in there until we get that vote.”
Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or Twitter.com/bpoehler
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