Let's put some ideas on the table.

By Chris Beck of Portland, Oregon.  Chris is a former state representative and project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

In March of 1933, Franklin Roosevelt was came to office, charged with putting America to work. In September of 1937, a mere 4 and one-half  years later, FDR visited Oregon and dedicated both Bonneville Dam and Timberline Lodge.   (My parents remember seeing him drive down Sandy Boulevard).

I ask all Blue Oregon readers--and hopefully more than a few red Oregonians--to make their suggestions for a specific project or two, to be undertaken by the Obama Administration that they believe would have comparable impact on the NW or could at least serve an existing need, create some jobs, and create something of long-term value in the process. 

To get things started, here are a few whimsical ideas that come to my mind. Surely, there are better ones out there.

1) Timberline Redux.  Build a Timberline Lodge-type public facility at the Oregon Coast on National Park Service Land in Clatsop County. A lodge for conferences, storm watching, recreation base, fire-enjoying, family dining, etc.  This could be tremendous enduring public art project and create a facility that brings a new boost of long-term economic vitality to the area.

2) Zip Trains.  Fast track a process to improve every existing at-grade passenger rail crossing  between Eugene and Vancouver B.C. to eliminate most or all conflicts between cars and trains along the route. The new bridges and underpasses would create jobs, and the improved rights of way would allow for fast trains between our cities, creating new efficiencies and opportunities for targeted economic development.   Wouldn't it be great to have 10 trains/day each way.  Seattle to Portland in 90 minutes?

3) Nez Perce Homeland National Park.  If the local people were willing, establish a new National Park in Wallowa County (or rather expand the small one currently there) protecting the entire glacial moraines and creating a first-class year round camping/convention facility in the Wallowa Valley that would attract visitors to the area and take pressure off of the existing crowded state park.   Creating a first class national park could help the economically struggling county and be a small step toward properly honoring Chief Joseph's people  who were chased out in 1877.

4) Brigadoon Pass.   Begin tolling our bridges and use the money for...fixing our bridges.   Lerner and Lowe's great Broadway musical told of a Scottish Highlands Shangri-La where one could escape the stress and toil of modern life and find love and happiness.... Since we Portlanders pride ourselves on our little utopia inside the Urban Growth Boundary,  why not ask the feds to help us pilot a two state program that puts computer chips in every car within five years so that we can begin  bridge tolling. We could toll at every possible portal to Metro  Portland: I-5/Vancouver, Glenn Jackson, Sandy River/Gorge, St Helen's  Rd/Cornelius Pass, Boone Bridge/Wilsonville, and probably other places.  Use the revenue generated from relatively small tolling/use fees to build us a first class I-5 bridge with light rail and enough lanes to make Senator Murray happy and rebuild the Sellwood Bridge with a tunnel under Tacoma St to McLoughlin to avoid neighborhood destruction.

5) Clean Energy Project.  Something grand to do with energy beyond what we are already doing with the wind farms in Eastern Oregon.

That's just a start, but surely you Blue Oregon readers have provocative big (and modest) ideas for our state and region.  Maybe some are "shovel ready" as we speak.  Maybe others would be require us to be willing to waive some of the regulatory excess (yes, sacrifice)  that prevents some things from moving forward in modern times.  Or maybe we can come up with a few fresh ideas that our elected leaders and President Obama can drive through to completion.  And to great fanfare when the President comes to dedicate them in September of 2013.

Comments

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    why not ask the feds to help us pilot a two state program that puts computer chips in every car within five years so that we can begin bridge tolling.

    The Florida Sunpass seems to be a much simpler system by providing drivers with a bar code they display inside their windshields. Toll plazas have bar code readers that calculate the charges and pass them on to the driver's credit card. The Floridians I have talked to may not like the toll charges, but they like this system that lets them shoot through toll plazas at speeds beyond the 25 mph they are supposed to follow at the plazas.

  • Linley (unverified)
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    Most of your list in interesting. But, item 4: SORRY. Having lived through the McCarthy era where ANY information in the government's hands was used against disliked individuals, and through the Bush era where this was done again, I am most unwilling to consider any scheme where the government tracks where I travel in a motor vehicle. Inch by inch, we are loosing our civil right to privacy. I am likewise against the governor's vehicle mileage tax scheme for the same reason. Civil rights are precious and must be preserved or they will be lost forever.

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    The global economy is changing rapidly. With improvements in transportation and telecommunications were are becoming more and more dependent for our economic growth on foreign trade, on what we can sell in foreign markets. To sell in foreign markets it helps to know foreign languages. So we need to invigorate our foreign language programs in the public schools, only with the languages of today's growing markets: Mandarin, Portuguese, Russia, Japanese, etc. Languages are best learn young and through immersion. So during the next several years, starting in 90 days, we could fund planning and initial start-up costs of K-5 immersion programs in these languages all across Oregon (mostly large districts). At $200,000 each we could do 20 for $4 million. Plus staff to work with school districts on a variety of methods of teaching and promoting Mandarin for about $400,000. Plus creation;/selection of online and correspondence foreign language courses for smaller school districts at $300,000. All one time expenses. All could start as soon as staffing could be found. All help us make the transition we must make to a 21st educational system.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    For the record, the Florida Sunpass is voluntary. Anyone concerned about the government tracking movements can stop at the toll plaza and pay cash. If you're paranoid, wipe your fingerprints off the coins and bills before giving them to the toll taker while you wear gloves.

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    Can we please, please, please make this a comment thread that's broadly about Chris's ideas - and your suggestions - rather than another drill-down argument between pro-toll and anti-toll people?

  • Linley (unverified)
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    The internet is the primary force for change in our time. Those communities that gain wide band access soonest have prospered the most. Therefore, a project to bring high speed internet to every community in the state would jump start Oregon in the right direction. Having a wide band connection to the web will make many small Oregon towns competitive in the new world economy, thus making them much more attractive places to live. This project thus also pushes against population concentration, urbanization, sprawl and a host of other problems.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    FDR didn't put anyone to work. That is liberal propaganda. I have this on the highest authority most recently by one of those wingnut flacks in the Sunday Oregonian.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    How about the government building small hospitals in rural areas and putting them at the disposal of doctors and dentists free of charge with the understanding they will only charge for professional services?

    Instead of building another multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier or cruiser, build a fleet of hospital ships to cruise the world providing free medical and dental services and training of local medical personnel in what are generally referred to as Third World countries. The cost would be less, but such a fleet would contribute immensely to a better image of the United States.

    In both cases, the government could provide a free education to would-be doctors, nurses, dentists, hygienists, etc. in exchange for tours of duty in these hospitals and hospital ships. If we can give a free education to people at military academies to teach people how to kill, surely we could also do the same to teach people how to be humane to others.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    How about building hospitals in rural areas and providing free use of these buildings to doctors and dentists with the understanding they will only charge for services rendered?

    Instead of building another multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier or cruiser, build a fleet of hospital ships to cruise ports in what are referred to as Third World countries to provide free medical and dental services and train local medical personnel. The cost would be much less and do much more good repairing the image of the United States.

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    Joel, I know your comment was tongue-in-cheek, but my 90-year old granddad credits the cc camps for pulling him out of poverty and helping him to develop a trade that has sustained him and his family for 70 years.

    When he went to the cc camps, he was working as a sheepherder for pennies a day in very inhospitable terrain. At those camps, he got 3 meals per day, could bathe daily, and he learned the basics of carpentry, masonry, logging, and helped build a reservoir that to this day provides water to much of southern Colorado.

    The good folks at the Cascade Policy Institute and their various flacks are swimming against the tide of history, the weight of all common sense, and ultimately the economic interests of the corporations that pay their bills in arguing against government investment in infrastructure and the economy.

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    The new comment engine is really buggy. An earlier comment in another thread never posted, even though it shows up in the comments list in the site nav, and the last comment double-posted, even though I only sent something once.

  • Christopher Cotrell (unverified)
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    On point #2: WSDOT's long-range plan for the Amtrak Cascades involves 13 trains a day between Seattle and Portland, taking two and a half hours. This is supposed to happen by 2023. They have a plan already in place: specific projects that must be carried out in sequence, but which all have value on their own, so that the program can be implemented incrementally and slowed, accelerated, or even stopped (no!) at any point.

    They have a series of six different timetables, with timetable A being the current schedule and timetable F being a wonderful dream with 2.5 hour trips leaving Portland for Seattle at 6 am, 7am, 8 am, 9 am, 10 am, noon, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, and 8pm, with the 8am, noon, and 3pm trips continuing on to Vancouver, BC for a total transit time of 5 hours 22 minutes.

    The whole program was expected to cost about $6-7 billion dollars, in 2004 I believe. Certainly whatever stimulus package comes out in the next few weeks can't fund the whole thing, but there are individual projects that can be started now. Every single project needed to reach the 2023 goal is planned out, ranging from crossovers to improve interactions with freight trains that cost $1 million to 30 mile long sections of track costing $500 million and allowing trains to travel at 110 miles per hour. Surely the early projects can be fast-tracked and get us to timetable B or maybe even C by the time of Obama's second inauguration.

    I unfortunately don't know the details of long-range plans for the Portland-Eugene section of the corridor, but certainly similar improvements can be made.

    To see more details of the PDX-Vancouver, BC section of the plan, including wonderful timetable porn for transport geek Oregonian expats like me, who desperately want to be able to take more weekend trips to visit friends in Portland from my current home in Vancouver, BC, check out pages 162-163 of the WSDOT plan.

  • Douglas K (unverified)
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    At this point, I'm more concerned with massive renovation of public infrastructure and buildings. Fix our roads and bridges, our schools and parks, our courthouses and public universities and libraries. Catch up with all the deferred maintenance that's been building up for years or even decades, and in the process renovate the buildings into LEED-rated structures and perform seismic retrofitting when necessary.

    Most "deferred maintenance" projects are shovel-ready or very close to it. We can put large numbers of people to work right away, and we can do it in every city and county in this state. Rehabbing old public buildings to make them more durable and energy-efficient will have long-term payoffs in lower operations an maintenance costs. It's not sexy or dramatic, but it's what we need both right now and in the years to come.

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    Chris, I love some of these ideas, public works is always a great way to help local workers and the local economy.

    The Zip trains sound interesting.

    I'd love to see an expedient way to get between Salem and Portland other than I-5 and a car.

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    I'd definitely like to see work done on community college campuses. Mt. Hood Community College needs major work, including roof repair and replacement. They were already in a lot of trouble in that area before this big windstorm came in - I hate to see what it is like now (in case you didn't know, they recorded 73 mph gusts there the other morning). We got hit pretty hard here (I live across the street from MHCC) and I can imagine it just made the problems at the college even worse.

    Many CC campuses have plans for expansion - I know MHCC does. These too are pretty much shovel ready. These expansions allow the campuses to have more students, them to work on 4 year degrees at their local campus, etc.

    I'd like to see some funds for upgrades to schools - especially 8-12th grades. We need to upgrade the technology available in schools, have laptops/computers for students to use, etc.

    There are a lot of things we can do to get people working right away. It can also help expand the education available to people from K-college.

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    While I too like the trains idea, we should note that mass transit in general got the shaft in the current version of the Federal stimulus package.

  • Tom Vail (unverified)
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    Proposed in the early 60s by Henry Kaiser (to promote the use of steel, Kaiser Steel) was the idea of double-decking freeways in urban areas. By building a second level above the first (usually supported by cantilevers on bases in the median area), highway capacity can be increased with little or no need to purchase new right of way (the biggest cost of most urban highway building). Why not immediately get to work on the deferred maintenance projects per Douglas K's suggestion above while we plan to double capacity of I-5 in most urban areas through double-decking?

  • LT (unverified)
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    "I'd like to see some funds for upgrades to schools - especially 8-12th grades. We need to upgrade the technology available in schools, have laptops/computers for students to use, etc."

    Good idea Jenni.

    And let's not let any Republican say that upgrades to classrooms (from technology to roof repair) are "pork". What do they want to spend money on--tax cuts only?

  • billb (unverified)
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    There is a public exhibit of Artworks illustrating a Green Park-Covered Columbia Crossing Bridge between Oregon and Washington at Portland/Vancouver at the NW Lucky Lab Brewpub on nw Quimby above 19th. [activity rm]. The Park-Roof will protect drivers/bikers/walkers from the often wild winter weather [reducing accidents]. The Park Plantlife will absorb rainwater driven pollution runoff [saving a fortune in treatment and a bunch of salmon] , and will absorb CO2 24 / 7 / 365. This is all known technology , and can be added to the concrete hulk the DOT is proposing for the same money as the toy windmills they just added for greenwashing.I propose we make the CRC Bridge a Green Gateway to the Northwest !

  • Mike Austin (unverified)
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    My priority would be to retrofit existing homes with energy conservation measures, with the money being allocated according to the income distribution in Oregon. IOW, lower income people get most of the benefits.

    The priorities would be insulation and plugging leaks by using caulking, chimney pillows, clothes dryer vents, etc. Because these measures are all relatively low cost and effective, they could be implemented in thousands of homes.

    This would create a lot of jobs, reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gases, and reduce monthly energy bills for those in the lower half of our society. This is win, win, win, win.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    So many comments are coming and going, this is a waste of time until it's fixed. You can have 3 in a thread and 1 goes up, leaving very much the wrong impression, as far as the context of the comment goes.

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    I still like this idea a lot. http://mounthoodnationalpark.org/ let's not stop while we're ahead. America could use some new National Parks - and Oregon could use a second and third park.

  • Joe Smith (unverified)
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    Riding the D.C. Metro the last four days reminded me once again of the magic of an intra-city rapid transit system that's segregated from automobile traffic. The trains can be long, without shutting down surface traffic. They can be fast, without threatening pedestrians or other vehicles. They can even have reasonably comfortable seats and decent legroom! Which means they really are a more attractive commuting medium than a private auto for thousands and thousands of people. Unlike Max, especially with the abomination being constructed downtown right now. 50 years from now there won't be a big city in America that really works that doesn't have an intra-city rapid system. Translation: subway or El, or combo of both. 150 systems around the world being built or expanded around the world; in the U.S. maybe two? So how about taking about 30% of the Pentagon's budget, and start building subways? Next thing you know we could have a "transportation/industrial complex" competing with the military one, which would be good in so many ways, and on so many levels.

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    Thanks, everyone for your comments. Maybe some political staff will read and get a few ideas. I like the green bridge idea on i-5, and the broad band is on target, too. Too bad this post coincided with more titilating news of the day....

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Great ideas. How 'bout a second green belt for I-84.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Joe Smith:

    Next thing you know we could have a transportation/industrial complex" competing with the military one

    Bob T:

    Hey Joe, we've had a transportation-industrial complex for at least a decade already. The reason it grew as a huge source of pork was because the military-ind complex ceased being the source it had been during the Cold War. Maybe it's been on the upswing in that area again, but that doesn't change the fact that we've seen a transportation-ind complex become the bigger magnet -- you just didn't notice because of your myopia.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
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    Joe Smith:

    Next thing you know we could have a transportation/industrial complex" competing with the military one

    Bob T:

    Hey Joe, we've had a transportation-industrial complex for at least a decade already. The reason it grew as a huge source of pork was because the military-ind complex ceased being the source it had been during the Cold War. Maybe it's been on the upswing in that area again, but that doesn't change the fact that we've seen a transportation-ind complex become the bigger magnet -- you just didn't notice because of your myopia.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Gordon Morehouse (unverified)
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    Better than improving rail crossings for passenger rail (if passenger rail is your only concern) would be getting Amtrak off of freight lines entirely. Right now Amtrak is at the mercy of the schedules of much slower-moving freight trains on much of the track it uses, causing untold delays and a rightful perception of reliability.

    We need real intercity rail service that is not at the whim of freight railroads -- ie, Amtrak with its own right of way.

    While we're at it, I'm hoping that one of the big New Deal style projects is going to be the electrification of long-distance railroads. There are plenty of good reasons for this, not the least of which being that freight and passenger service would not require petroleum as a power source like they do today, but could still use it where and when it made sense.

  • Oregon Cat Trapper (unverified)
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    <h2>Insulate every rental and house in Oregon. This would save the inhabitants money, individually, and power usage and put people to work doing it.</h2>
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