March 23, 2023

RE: HB 3301 and HB 3323

Good evening Co-chairs Gorsek and McLain, and Vice-chairs Boquist and Boshart Davis, and members of the Joint Transportation Committee.  I am Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal for North and Northeast Portland, and I am here to testify in support of House Bills 3301 and 3323. 

House Bill 3301 provides Multnomah County with a long-term tool to build and maintain our Willamette River bridges through a County Service District. This district would be in charge of a unique set of 6 large bridges, including the Burnside, spanning the Willamette River. 

House Bill 3323 provides us with a meaningful investment of $300M from the state to match local investment in the project, which signals to our federal partners that we are serious about funding this bridge. 

No other county in Oregon owns, operates, maintains and replaces bridges of this magnitude, and these bridges are at the heart of our largest city - our major economic driver for the state. 

It is imperative that we have bridges that serve the public now and into the future, but this is a major financial responsibility. Because it is unique, we have no funding mechanism in place to address this need. That is why we are here today seeking help from our state partners.

When considered together, these two bills allow us to provide a short-term and longer-term solution to bridge replacement and maintenance, but this project is so much more than just a conventional transportation asset.

Because of the uniqueness of this regional project, our design team has carefully weighed community input to ensure that the bridge is future-ready and balances the needs of all who will be using it.

We have provided over 350 briefings, hosted 7 open houses and surveys, incorporated feedback from over 13,000 surveys, and received an 88% community approval rating for the preferred alternative. We have also received unanimous Locally Preferred Alternative [LPA] support from both the Metro Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation [JPACT] and Metro Council. 

We are continuing to work closely with regional community and public partners, including the City of Portland, to refine some details of the new bridge’s design, as we head into the design phase.

While seismic resilience is our north star, we have also incorporated many other community requests such as a crash worthy barrier between lanes of traffic and the multi-use path.

The bridge’s multi-use path will be at least as wide as the current path on the Tilikum bridge, which is the widest of any Willamette River Bridge currently in use, and possibly wider. 

The bridge will be designed to accommodate a streetcar, and the lane configuration will include a bus-only lane on the east-bound side of the bridge to encourage transit ridership. 

The new bridge will capture all stormwater from the bridge deck, treat it to satisfy the stringent City of Portland and Oregon state standards, and convey it into an upgraded stormwater treatment facility, improving the water quality of the Willamette River.

We are aiming for a gold certification in the Greenroads Sustainability Rating System during the design and construction phases of the bridge.

And finally, this will be the largest project to be completed while adhering to the Clean Air Construction Program, which is a collaboration among public agencies in the Portland Metro Area to reduce diesel emissions on their construction projects.

House bills 3301 and 3323 are both key pieces to funding the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project and building a new, future ready bridge that meets the needs of many.

I want to emphasize that time is not on our side with respect to preparing for the Cascadia event. It is not on our side in the sense that with every day that passes, we are that much closer to a major seismic event. And it will not be on our side when that event happens. Every minute will count in getting people to safety. An earthquake resilient Burnside Bridge will save minutes, and it will save lives.

I encourage your support today for both of these bills and look forward to continued collaboration with state and local partners on this important landmark and community asset.