This post was originally published on this site

Andrew Owens

Owens, who owns A&M Transport, is the board chairman for the Oregon Trucking Associations. He lives in Glendale.

Idling. Gridlock. Frustrated commuters. For many who live outside of Portland, it can be difficult to comprehend the magnitude of congestion seen daily on portions of Interstate 5. However, as the owner of a trucking company that frequently runs trucks from Southern Oregon through the metro area, I’ve witnessed firsthand how this gridlock affects productivity and our business. Commerce that drives Oregon’s economy is being stifled by several bottlenecks on Portland’s freeway system.

If Portland is the “heart” of goods moving into and out of the state, then I-5 is the main artery, and there is a definite blockage.

The American Transportation Research Institute annually identifies the top 100 bottlenecks in the entire country. For the past few years, the I-5 interchange with Interstate 84, also known as the Rose Quarter interchange, has landed at number 28. Business activity at the Port of Portland, Swan Island and the surrounding region contributes to the trucking activity, which then contributes to this bottleneck and affects regions far beyond Portland. An estimated 17 million tons of cargo ­– automobiles, wheat and countless other products ­– move through Portland each year, mostly to or from the Port of Portland. The majority of U.S.- Canada and U.S.-Mexico cross-border freight is moved by trucks, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with I-5 serving as the main conduit on the West Coast. In Oregon, close to 80% of Oregon communities depend solely on trucks to deliver goods and supplies, according to the research institute’s latest analysis.

In 2017, the Oregon Legislature promised congestion relief and improved freight mobility through the Rose Quarter with the passage of HB 2017. The law required investment in new lanes and created a plan to improve connectivity across the freeway. As part of HB 2017, the trucking industry is already paying higher taxes as part of an overall increase of 53% in weight-mile taxes by 2025. With the scope of work reduced and progress practically at a standstill, I, along with other motor carriers around the state, am asking myself why I agreed to a significant financial investment in transportation infrastructure that is still not working for our businesses and many Oregonians.

The Oregon trucking industry paid $299 million in federal and state roadway taxes in 2020. Our agreement to take on additional taxes to improve congestion relief in Portland only added to the heavy tax load we haul and we’re not seeing any return on our investment.

While my business is based in a small town south of Roseburg, I was willing to take on this additional financial burden because I understand that I-5 serves all of Oregon. Localized concerns are stalling much needed improvements, but the fact remains that the 308 miles on I-5 belong to all of Oregon, not just specific segments of Portland. The one mile of freeway at the Rose Quarter is absolutely critical infrastructure for the state’s manufacturers, farmers, importers and exporters.

While the project sits as idle as a commuter during rush hour, the related funding mechanisms keep moving forward. The Oregon Legislature made the commitment to alleviate Portland’s congestion problem, and it’s past time to keep that promise.

Share your opinion

Submit your essay of 500-600 words on a highly topical issue or a theme of particular relevance to the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and the Portland area to Please include your email and phone number for verification.