Will Portland Commuters Soon Pay Tolls on Local Interstates?

The Oregon Legislative Assembly pulled off its biggest achievement of the 2017 session: it approved a huge transportation bill (House Bill 2017) that seeks to raise $5.3 billion over the next ten years. By introducing tolls on interstate highways, new taxes, and raising current transportation taxes and fees, the state hopes to raise enough revenue to repair its failing infrastructure, expand public transit, and reduce highway traffic congestion.

The bill’s approval is a boon to legislators who have tried to pass a revenue-producing package to strengthen the state’s infrastructure two years in a row with little success. Crumbling roads and bridges put lives at risk and are at high risk for causing mass destruction in the event of an earthquake. By taking somewhat drastic, out-of-the-box measures, the state expects to meet its goal.

Some of these measures are attracting more attention than others. To the average commuter, they are all generally unwelcome expenses.

New Taxes

Part of the package outlines tax and fee increases such as:

  • New sales taxes on cars and bikes
  • Increased gas tax
  • Increased vehicle registration fees
  • A -cent gas tax and $15 vehicle registration fee in the Portland metro area
  • A 0.1% employer payroll tax to pay for public transit projects

Upon implementation, Oregon would see its first tax on bike sales, a 3% tax. Used and new vehicle sales would also see a 0.75% tax.

Interstate Tolls on the Horizon

A central component of the hefty 298-page bill is the proposal to build a toll system on I-5 and I-205 beginning at the Oregon-Washington border, up through Portland, and until the highways connect in Wilsonville. The bill would create a transportation commission that would seek federal approval to add tolls to the state’s most congested highways: I-5 and I-205. It could take until December 31, 2018 to receive such approval, upon which construction can begin.

It remains unclear exactly what the toll system would look like, but we do know that the tolls would work on a value pricing system, meaning that the rates would vary by the level of congestion and the time of day. Value

By |August 28th, 2017|General News|

Top 5 Things to Expect for the Great American Eclipse

The much-anticipated total eclipse is quickly approaching, with less than a month to spare. On August 21, 2017, the solar eclipse will first make landfall in Oregon before gliding over the Midwest and Southeastern United States. It is the first eclipse ever recorded to cross the United States exclusively, and one of the few total solar eclipses to even make landfall. The once-in-a-lifetime event is luring visitors from all over the world. To experience the eclipse in all its glory, Oregonians should anticipate five key things.

Millions of “Outsiders”

Between 1 and 2 million visitors are expected to arrive in Oregon just for the eclipse. Eclipse tourists from all over the country and possibly several other countries are flocking to small Oregon towns that have never before received so many tourists in a year, let alone one for one event. There will be people on the streets eager to arrive at their destination who do not know their way around town, nor are they familiar with local customs and rules of the road. Mustering up patience in anticipation of a sharp, temporary urge in the state’s population will be important to maintaining your cool and maximizing your own personal enjoyment of the eclipse.

Ungodly Congestion

Interstate highways are expected to overflow in the days leading up to the eclipse and on August 22, 2017. ODOT recommends avoiding major highways like I-5, US 101, and US 26, if possible. While major highways are not expected to close, traffic patterns may change to optimize traffic flow.

Oregon’s coastal cities will be the first to receive the spectacle, which is why highways leading to and up and down the coast are expected to be the most seriously congested. Avoid traveling in the path of totality and, if possible, work from home. If you happen to find yourself stuck on the highway during the couple of minutes in which the eclipse is visible, be sure to arm your car with food, water, a first aid kit, and extra gasoline. ODOT suggests viewers “arrive early, stay put, and leave late.”

Reduced or Zero Cell Service

One of the immediate effects of a rapid rise in population is the increased strain on cellular networks.

By |August 8th, 2017|General News|

August Solar Eclipse Will Be Oregon’s Greatest Traffic Event

As residents of Lincoln County are stocking up on water, food, gas, and snow fencing, Governor Kate Brown has authorized the Oregon National Guard to deploy 150 soldiers and six aircraft to help keep traffic under control. No, we aren’t expecting that overdue earthquake– yet. We are preparing for what NASA predicts will be one of the worst traffic days in U.S. history: The Great American Eclipse!

Oregon will be the lucky first state to witness the moon passing between the sun and Earth in the first total solar eclipse viewable in Oregon since 1979. It is also the first solar eclipse to pass exclusively over the United States of America. Any other eclipse that may have passed over this region occurred before the country was established.

What Makes This Eclipse Special?

The highly-anticipated event is drawing attention worldwide. Thousands of viewing events like music festivals and wine tastings are planned throughout country in the “path of totality,” or a band about 70 miles wide stretching from Oregon to South Carolina in which a total eclipse will be viewable. Several “totality parties” are taking place in Central Oregon, but are quite possibly all sold out. Hotels near the path of totality have been booked for months, with some standard rooms in humdrum towns going for as much as $600 per night. Some of the last campsites in Madras, Oregon, no larger than 20’x 20’, were reserved for $1,500. Oregon State Parks auctioned off thirty of the very last camping spots for $60,000 each!

Those who have been fortunate enough to view a total eclipse find it difficult to put their awe into words. A total solar eclipse occurs in that rare moment when the sun, Earth, and moon are in alignment. The moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow that leaves the Earth in darkness, exposing the sun’s corona. Those who are just a few miles outside of the path can view up to a 99% eclipse, which will not bring darkness or reveal the corona, the main attraction of a “total” eclipse.

Although total eclipses occur about every 18 months, it’s rare to witness one. This is because they usually take place over

By |July 31st, 2017|General News|

The Portland Riot Problem

Portland is often viewed through rose-colored lenses as a city in which open-minded individuals receptive to different ideas, viewpoints, beliefs, and backgrounds come together to indulge in craft beer, legalized marijuana and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It is a place that prides itself on political participation and exercising free speech. Peaceful protests against seemingly every issue imaginable often take place; yet more recently, escalating tensions between far left and far right activists have taken protests to a new level, leading to chaos and destruction.

Rioting around the city has been increasingly prominent since November’s election. People have been hurt, property has been destroyed, and the city’s image of tolerance and acceptance has been tarnished as violence erupts from both sides of the political spectrum. The second that free speech stands to put lives at risk, it is not considered protected speech. This level of so-called activism does little to sway those with opposing viewpoints while creating a problem the city is finding difficult to keep under control.

November Riots (November 9, 2016)

The night of the election sparked protests around the country, but perhaps none grew so violent as those in Portland. Over four thousand protesters marched through the streets during what began as a peaceful protest. The tune quickly changed as certain self-described anarchists turned the dial to full-on riot mode. Rioters threw objects at police, vandalized several businesses, lit fires, and blocked freeways. Police fought back with pepper spray and rubber bullets. Fights broke out between protesters and supporters; someone chucked a Molotov cocktail into a bonfire. Shattered glass illuminated the city as the riots destroyed downtown.

Toyota of Portland was badly hit, with vehicles completely totaled by the rioters. Brick, bats, cinder blocks, and human power were all used to break glass and cause irreversible damage to new cars on the lot. Areas of the Pearl and Pioneer Square looked as if a storm had hit. About a thousand protesters marched on I-5 and I-84 blocking swaths of freeway. The demonstrations lasted three days.

The damage: over $1 million worth of property damage; 26 arrests.

Inauguration Day Protests (January 20, 2017)

Five individual protests took place Inauguration Day Friday, but none as large

By |July 23rd, 2017|General News|

Are Driverless Trucks Coming to Portland?

From the computer mouse to the Nike swoosh, many great inventions bloomed in Portland. Most recently, self-driving trucks have been developed in Rose City by a team of engineers working for Daimler Trucks North America, headquartered east of the Willamette. The group is a big piece of the automation puzzle and seeks to adapt automation to revolutionize the trucking industry.

Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, developed the first-ever self-driving semi truck in six months based on technology it has developed over the past two decades. The Freightliner semi truck, named Inspiration, was granted the first autonomous vehicle license plate for legal operation in Nevada in 2015. In order to gain that special license plate, Daimler had to prove that the truck could safely drive 10,000 on its own. It is considered a Level 3 autonomous vehicle on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s scale of automated driving systems because it still requires a human operator.

Using front-facing stereoscopic cameras and radar sensors to monitor road conditions in autopilot mode, the Inspiration navigates highways with ease. A human operator is still a vital component of the process, helping the vehicle get on and off the highway, navigate during adverse weather conditions, and even change lanes. Daimler stresses that humans will be necessary to oversee the operation of such vehicles for the foreseeable future.

Daimler has also been testing platooning semi-autonomous trucks on local highways. Platooning entails a string of trucks following one another for maximum wind resistance and fuel efficiency. Between two and five trucks may follow each other closely and use technology to communicate when any truck in the series is about to hit an obstacle. Through the use of technology that allows them to communicate, the trucks can follow each other much more closely than if humans were operating them.

These trucks were tested most recently on Interstate 84, which has become a standard route for testing fuel economy, according to Daimler officials.

Potential Benefits of Driverless Trucks

Daimler’s engineers are continuously working on technology that seeks to boost the trucking industry, which would in turn benefit consumers. Through rigid testing, tweaking, and retesting of autonomous trucks, the company’s progress in automation pushes us ever-closer to a world

By |July 22nd, 2017|General News|

Portland Homeless Population Increases 10% in 2017

Since the city’s 2015 homeless crisis, millions of dollars worth of funds have been funneled into various resources in an attempt to cut the homeless population in half by 2017. It is now the summer of 2017, and that has not happened. Instead, Portland’s homeless population has increased 10%.

Back in 2015, there was such rampant homelessness that Mayor Ted Wheeler declared it a state of emergency. The homeless population was 3801. Today, it is 4177 despite record spending ($30 million) by Multnomah County and the City of Portland to bring these numbers down. Funds have been placed toward permanent housing, shelter, and programs that help prevent people from becoming homeless, as well as rent assistance, yet the rate at which the homeless are becoming homeless has outpaced these efforts due to a blossoming housing crisis and other factors.

While the increase is unfortunate, it does not prove that efforts to curb homelessness have not paid off in some way. For the first time since the city began counting the homeless population, there is a greater portion of homeless people in shelters than on the streets. The number of unsheltered homeless persons has decreased 12%. This was made possible because these funds have contributed to an increase in shelter beds throughout the city. Roughly 630 more beds were added since January 2016, making room for families, women, people with pets, and others experiencing homelessness. Over 3500 people were also placed into permanent housing.

Why are numbers increasing?

In the summertime, Portland traditionally experiences an explosion in the homeless population as many transients make their way to Portland from other areas. In addition, many sources point to skyrocketing housing costs and lack of availability of affordable housing as a key driver of homelessness.

Generally, homeless men and women are attracted to urban areas that have the resources they need to survive. Homelessness is decreasing nationally in rural areas, while many large cities are grappling with a serious homeless problem, including New York, L.A., and Seattle which all have over 10,000 homeless people living on the streets or in shelters.

In Portland, the number of chronically homeless individuals rose 24%. Of

By |June 6th, 2017|General News, Protecting Oregonians|

One Survives MAX Train Attack Thanks to Good Samaritan

Friday, May 26th marked the first day of Ramadan. It also marked the day three caring individuals attempted to stop hate speech in its tracks on a MAX train one fateful afternoon. On that day, a pair of teenagers, one of whom was wearing a hijab, were targeted for racial hate speech by a fellow passenger. The man yelled racial slurs at the two young women when a few fellow passengers intervened. Three men were stabbed on that train and just one survived.

According to witnesses on the MAX line train heading east in Northeast Portland, the man was yelling what would be best characterized as hate speech toward various ethnicities and religions. Only some of the speech was directed at the female passengers. He was ranting about many different topics in a hateful manner when at least two men tried to quiet him down. At this point, these men were viciously attacked with a knife. Three men total were stabbed, and just one survived. One died at the scene, one in a nearby hospital, and survivor Micah Fletcher, 21, has recently recovered from injuries sustained.

Micah David-Cole Fletcher was en route to his job at a pizzeria after attending classes at PSU. He was stabbed on his left side in the neck, just millimeters away from suffering a fatal wound. After undergoing two-hour surgery, he was expected to survive. The lone survivor of the MAX attack had won a poetry competition in 2013 when he was still in high school. He was rescued by an unidentified passenger who put pressure on his wound before he received emergency care. The man also used Fletcher’s cell phone to call Fletcher’s mother and let her know what happened. As a veteran, he claimed he was familiar with first aid. He did not disclose the full scope of the injuries he sustained on the train, saving her from excessive worry.

Regarding the attacker, he is a known white supremacist who had an intense criminal record before carrying out the stabbings. The day prior to the altercation he had allegedly picked a fight with another woman at a MAX station. He allegedly threw a plastic bottle at a woman of color who in turn sprayed him with mace.

By |May 30th, 2017|General News|

Ride Connection Offers Free Transportation for Elderly and Disabled


If you live in Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas County and are 60 years of age or more or disabled, Ride Connection can get you going with free door to door service by car, van, or bus for any purpose: doctor visits, meals, shopping, recreation, and volunteering or work, and pick you up when you are done.

Now you don’t have an excuse to miss important visits for treatments. If you have an open injury or disability claim, you must follow your doctor’s advice and be present for all scheduled appointments.

Ride Connection has been offering this valuable service for the past 25 years as a private nonprofit, funded from federal and state grants, which are administrated by TriMet (via the Federal Transit Administration) and by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Ride Connection also works closely with organizations such as Metropolitan Family Service and American Cancer Society to coordinate and provide rides.

Ride Connection employs paid and volunteer drivers, who have gone through background and DMV checks and have completed a training program which includes safe driving and passenger assistance techniques and vehicle orientation and securement training for those driving accessible vehicles.

If you are ready to travel independently, Ride Connection can also give you one-on-one information, training, and support centered on the safe and independent use of public transportation, also at no charge. The training is provided by qualified and experienced Travel Trainers, who go through a strict screening process and receive extensive training.

Signing up with Ride Connection is easy. You can request a ride either by phone or through an online form for returning customers. The office is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 5:00pm. You may call 503-226-0700 (or Oregon Relay: 7-1-1) or send an email to info@rideconnection.org. Once you are registered for the service, Ride Connection will set up an online account for you. Give them a call to schedule no later than four business days before your trip. They will then call you two business days before the trip to confirm.


By |September 29th, 2016|General News|

Most Bizarre Portland Car Accidents in 2015

Lately, the city of Portland has faced troubling statistics involving traffic reports. We are ranked as the 9th city with the worst congestion in the US, have some of the worst drivers, and for the past two years our fatal accident rate has escalated. 2015 saw a sharp uptick in traffic fatalities, with 37 traffic fatalities as opposed to 21 the previous year. 10 of these were pedestrian fatalities, 2 were bicycle fatalities, 5 were motorcycle fatalities, and 20 were motorist fatalities. A motorist is defined as an occupant of a car or a truck by the 2015 Portland Traffic Safety Report.

Many of these accidents involved the usual factors: drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding and overall recklessness; yet these accidents account for a small fraction of the total collisions reported in 2015, for which there is still no official count. In 2014, the Oregon Traffic Summary totaled 11,283 collisions in Portland alone. Considering recent trends, the 2015 count will be significantly higher.

Car accidents take place in a variety of surprising ways. Here are our top picks for most bizarre traffic incidents in Portland last year.

Reckless Driver Crashes into 2 Buildings

On one fateful November night, a young male motorist sped through a whirlwind of stunts before smashing his car into a house, hitting a tree, and then crashing into a shop building on Southeast Jenne Road. 24-year old Jesse Allen McCormick was speeding westbound on Southeast McKinley Road when he missed a corner, crossed Jenne Road, jumped a boulder, crashed a fence, and then sideswiped the home, damaging the bedroom of a woman who had recently evacuated the room moments before the crash occurred at 2:30 am. The rollercoaster ride ended when the car crashed into a shed. It was found several feet off the ground. McCormick sustained minor injuries and has been charged with third-degree assault, criminal mischief, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment.

Semi-truck Fuel Tanker Smacks into Rail Cars, Ignites Firetruck-on-fire

In mid-December, a commercial fuel tanker truck strayed from Highway 30, descended down an embankment, and rolled over, igniting a massive fuel fire alongside the highway after it struck a series of stationary rail cars situated east of the St. John’s Bridge. The fire emitted dark smoke that covered the area for miles and burned for over an hour before firefighters could fully contain it. Police identified

By |September 15th, 2016|Auto Accidents, General News|

Gunman!! Run, Hide and Fight?

Tragically, mass shootings are becoming more and more common. The Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub reminds us that it could happen anywhere, anytime where people gather. You need a plan, If and when faced with an assassin, there will be little time to react or think.

The US Department of Homeland Security advises civilians to “Run, Hide and then Fight”, leaving fighting as a last resort. In reality, it’s more complicated than that. Run to a safer place. Hide in a secure place with a secure exit . Fight as soon as you can do so effectively.

If disabled, hurt or elderly, hiding may be your only option. Don’t forget to close the blinds and windows. Lock, barricade doors and identify escape routes. Turn off electronic devises. Be very quiet. Use the cover of walls and structures.

For most unarmed people, running is probably the safest option. If running is your plan, know your route. Be careful not to run into a dead end. Make it a habit to see the way out in every closed space you enter. Don’t worry about your stuff. Leave it. Don’t go alone. And don’t stay alone. Don’t use escalators or elevators, if possible.

If everyone runs, the assailant remains on the rampage, a danger to all. A few need to immediately fight back. Consider the thwarted Paris train disaster in August 2015. If not for the actions of three brave Americans many would have certainly died. Similarly, passenger revolt on United flight 93 likely saved many on the in buildings from a deadly airplane strike. But automatic assault style weapons are nearly impossible to rebuke without a firefight.  Even the president of the NRA does not support arming night club patrons. While politicians debate the solution offering “thoughts and prayers”, more die.

Something needs to change. No, we don’t need to repeal the second amendment. We need a creative solution that identifies, treats and neutralizes the dangerous psychology of would be assailants before tragedy erupts. The solution should also recognize the need for certain able, trusted civilians to promptly and effectively fight back. Congress should finally face up to the issue, not simply run and hide, again.

By |June 20th, 2016|General News, Protecting Oregonians, Uncategorized|