Jul 03, 2012

When U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon set off on his all-electric drive across the state July 2, his first stop was Electric Avenue, the block-long charging station at Portland State University. Merkley plugged in his car to one of the Electric Avenue charging stations and addressed the crowd gathered on the plaza nearby.

Merkley’s Oil-Free Across Oregon trip is taking him from the Washington border to the California border, “the Columbia to the Redwoods,” he said. Without the recent investments in charging stations along the Interstate 5 corridor, the gaps between chargers would have made an all-electric journey difficult.

“I couldn’t have taken this trip a year ago,” Merkley said. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Portland State President Wim Wiewel joined Merkley for remarks.

The trip follows the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of DC fast charging stations along I-5. The public charging stations, spaced 25 to 60 miles apart, allow a driver to charge up in 30 minutes or less. OTREC's Transportation Electrification Initiative is guiding the state of Oregon's electric vehicle plan and evaluating the DC fast-charge stations and user behavior to shape future investments.

Merkley is stopping in Salem, Halsey and Springfield on Monday and Roseburg, Canyonville...

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Mar 26, 2012

With persistently high unemployment, it’s hard to imagine that having too many available transportation jobs constitutes a workforce crisis. But with many local agencies expecting half or more of their employees to be eligible for retirement within five years, that crisis looms.

Against this backdrop, 35 transportation leaders from Portland-area agencies met March 20 for a roundtable discussion of workforce challenges. Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith co-chaired the meeting, which included participants from organizations that train and educate as well as those that hire transportation workers.

The group agreed that a skills gap exists: there are plenty of people available to fill future vacancies but overwhelmingly they lack the specialized skills. Welding provides one example.  The demand for skilled welders far exceeds the supply. In response, Portland Community College is working to expand its training program in that area.

Elsewhere, the region’s economic plan calls for doubling exports. But if that happens, port operators will face an even bigger struggle to find workers with maritime experience or mastery of specialized software.

Returning military veterans often present a different problem: they have the skills but don’t necessarily have the proper certification. For example, many veterans have extensive experience driving large trucks but lack the commercial driver’s license required to work as a...

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Mar 23, 2011

In a tent in a parking lot under a freeway bridge, Ray LaHood saw the future of the country’s transportation network Tuesday. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation spoke to reporters, dignitaries and construction workers in the muddy work zone of Southwest Moody Avenue.

Last year, the project to rebuild Moody Avenue received a $23.2 million grant from the federal stimulus package. The project will double the streetcar tracks and add a cycle track and sidewalks. It will also ease connections to a new transit bridge that will carry the Portland-Milwaukie light rail line, the eastside streetcar loop, cyclists and pedestrians.

LaHood, joined by the area's congressional delegation, city and state officials, stressed the jobs the project is creating and the boost for the mix of transportation modes it represents. The project will also reduce congestion, LaHood said, by making transit attractive to current and future residents and employees.

Before construction started along Moody, automobile congestion was virtually nonexistent. However, it’s a heavily trafficked bicycle route connecting Portland’s cycle-friendly downtown bridges with its largest employer, Oregon Health and Science University.

By allowing choices of light-rail train, streetcar, bicycle and shoe leather, the project stands to boost those forms of transportation. If commuters leave their cars at home, that represents a reduction in congestion elsewhere. Of course, the project will also add...

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Feb 09, 2011

Despite some major strides in safety on Portland’s streets, the city has a lot of work remaining to make the city safe for all forms of transportation. At the fifth Transportation Safety Summit, held Feb. 8 at Marshall High School in southeast Portland, speakers stressed the importance of a multipronged approach to safety.

Sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the summit also featured speakers from the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams.

Tom Miller, the incoming PBOT director, and Susan Keil, the outgoing director, said the bureau is focusing safety efforts on 10 high-crash corridors. Improving safety there will require an approach they called the “Three E’s”: engineering, education and enforcement. That is, transportation systems have to be designed for all users’ safety, the users need to know how to navigate the systems and mechanisms must be put in place to make sure people follow the rules. The city will issue annual performance reports to assess the safety of trouble spots.

According to PBOT records, citywide traffic fatalities dropped in 2010, compared to 2009. This reflects an overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities over the last 15 years.

One worrisome point is the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The number of people killed while walking rose for the second straight year, to 15 in 2010. That’s more than the combined number of motorists, motorcyclists...

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Sep 14, 2010

We've just posted a photo set from the Oregon Transportation Summit 2010 at the OTREC flickr site. You can see photographs of the OTREC award winners, plenary and keynote speakers and breakout sessions.

View the full set here.