Governor signs Oregon transportation bill

Gov. Kate Brown quietly signed a $5.3 billion transportation funding bill Friday, but will travel to Malheur County next week for a ceremonial signing. The bill provides funding for a rail transloading facility for the area.

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to appear at a ceremonial signing of a $5.3 billion transportation funding bill in Eastern Oregon Aug. 28, the Capital Press reported Monday.

Brown officially signed House Bill 2017 without notice or fanfare on Aug. 18, because she is planning a statewide tour celebrating the signing, said Bryan Hockaday, Brown’s press secretary.

She will start out in Ontario, Bend and Medford Monday and visit Eugene and Portland Tuesday, according to a letter sent to members of the legislative committee that crafted the transportation package.

The ceremonial signing is set for 10 a.m. at the Ontario Train Depot. Brown is expected to visit Ontario to highlight a $26 million project in the bill to construct a reload facility central to moving products out of Malheur County, The Argus Observer reported Tuesday.

The Governor’s Office was not immediately available Tuesday morning to elaborate on the reasons for holding the ceremonial signing in Ontario.

An author of the legislation, Republican Rep. Cliff Bentz represents Ontario. Bentz played a crucial role in negotiating an agreement between Republicans and Democrats that would win enough votes to pass the bill, said House Minority Leader Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

“I am happy she is coming here,” Bentz said in a phone interview from Ontario Tuesday. “I think it is an important part of the process of sharing with the state the importance of this particular legislation.”

Bentz and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, Malheur County economic development director, both served on the legislative committee that crafted the transportation package.

Smith is guiding planning for development of the reload facility in a proposed industrial park, with a to-be-determined location, The Argus Observer reported.

A non-profit corporation is being formed to govern the new facility and hire a manager, according to the Argus newspaper.

The eight-year transportation plan includes staggered hikes in the gas tax, increases to registration and title fees, and new taxes on payroll, new vehicle purchases and bicycles priced more than $200. The package also calls for congestion-priced tolling at some of Portland’s bottlenecks, which could include certain lanes on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, to pay for congestion-busting projects.

Among major projects specified in the plan are congestion relief on Highway 217, widening northbound I-205 from Powell Boulevard to Interstate 84 and initial investment in adding new lanes to I-5 through Portland’s Rose Quarter.

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