Oregon officials discuss regional airports and high-speed rail

Portland Port and Metro leaders speak at a Canadian two-state, one-province climate conference.

Two Oregon officials, in addition to Governor Kate Brown, spoke at a climate change conference sponsored Sept. 12-13 by Cascadia Innovation Corridor in Blaine, Wash.

Port of Portland Executive Director Curtis Robinhold joined his Seattle and Vancouver counterparts in signing an agreement pledging to cooperate in mitigating the effects of airport facilities, airport operations, employee vehicle travel and passengers to and from airports and sustainable aviation fuel.

Oregon Metro President Lynn Peterson moderated a panel on a proposed high-speed rail line between Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland. Most of the proposed 350-mile route is in Washington state, where lawmakers have invested $4 million in planning funds and $150 million in potential match for a federal grant under the the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law last year. The BC provincial government invested $300,000 in planning funds, the same amount it approved for each of the two previous studies.

Airport actions

“Our three airports have become global leaders in ambitious regional and cross-border efforts to accelerate the decarbonization of aviation,” said Ann Ardizzone, panel moderator and vice president of supply chain at Alaska Airlines, which uses Portland and Seattle as major hubs.

COURTESY PHOTO - Curtis Robinhold, Executive Director of the Port of Portland, spoke about what Portland International Airport is doing in cooperation with its counterparts in Seattle and Vancouver to mitigate climate change at a conference on the 12th and 13th September in Blaine, Washington.Robinhold said the Port of Portland has already reduced carbon emissions generated by Portland International Airport by 60% from 1990 levels. The port is undertaking a $2 billion renovation, including a new roof for the main terminal consisting of 3.3 million board feet of solid wood. It is wood that is glued and compressed to allow it to support structural loads.

“It will roughly double the airport’s footprint while reducing our energy intensity by 60%,” he said.

An $18 million federal grant, awarded in July, will allow the airport to replace boilers and chillers with electric heat pumps. Two of the four halls are electrified, Robinhold said, “and we are seeing full electrification of all of our halls over the next five years.”

Portland International Airport is connected to TriMet’s Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail system via a link opened in 2001.

According to Robinhold, airports have no direct involvement in aviation fuel, which is the responsibility of individual airlines.

“We really focus on the things that we operate,” he said. “As owners, there’s not much we can do about the prices.”

However, Robinhold and his counterparts at the Port of Seattle and the Vancouver Airport Authority said there is a future possibility of joint purchasing of so-called sustainable aviation fuel. Made from agricultural and forestry residues and municipal waste, this biofuel resembles traditional aviation fuel but is lower in carbon emissions.

“We need a national policy on carbon pricing; I don’t care what it looks like,” Robinhold added. “I think if applied fairly, airlines would not be disadvantaged by having to pay more for the same flight than their competitors.”

Alaska Airlines’ Ardizzone said jet engines don’t need any modifications to use such biofuels. Recent congressional approval of federal tax credits should help airline procurement; Ardizzone said only about 1% of what is needed is now available.

“We need a level playing field for access to this fuel and the price of this fuel,” she said.

High speed railroad

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon Metro President Lynn Peterson moderated a panel on regional high-speed rail at a climate change conference Sept. 12-13 in Blaine, Washington.  His agency is responsible for coordinating transportation planning;  Peterson is also a former Washington State Secretary of Transportation. In a later panel, participants discussed how a high-speed rail line should involve communities, primarily in Washington state, where most of the proposed line would be. Vancouver and Portland would each be a few miles over the Washington state borders — and in Portland’s case, across the Columbia River, where a replacement bridge is being considered to connect it to Vancouver, Wash. .

The current Interstate Bridge spans for I-5 were built in 1917 and 1958. The Glenn Jackson Bridge for I-205 was opened in late 1982.

Oregon lawmakers had agreed to state funding for a new bridge in 2013, but the project was scrapped mid-year when the Washington Senate found itself in the lurch. Deadlock on Funding. The states have revived the project, which involves preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement, but Oregon has yet to follow through on state funding. It is uncertain whether the project qualifies for a share of the $100 billion the U.S. Department of Transportation can designate for major projects under the Infrastructure Act of 2021.

“We’re not talking about whether we’re going to build the (high-speed rail) project,” said Alex Hudson, executive director of the Seattle-based Transportation Choices Coalition and panelist. “We talk about when and where.”

A 2010 study commissioned by the governors of the three west coast states and the premier of British Columbia stated:

“A highly functional regional rail corridor significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions by taking cars and trucks off the road and reducing the miles traveled by single-passenger vehicles.”

The proposed high-speed regional rail line is not intended to replace Amtrak Cascades service, which Washington and Oregon are helping to subsidize between Vancouver, Canada, and Eugene. Amtrak trains run on tracks owned by private railroads — BNSF Railway in Washington and Union Pacific in Oregon — and a high-speed line will likely follow a new route.

Meanwhile, Peterson — a former Clackamas County commissioner and transportation policy adviser to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber — was hired by Washington Governor Jay Inslee in 2013 to run the transportation agency. of this state. She lost that job in 2016, when the Washington Senate declined to confirm her. She was elected in 2018 as president of Metro, the Portland regional government that coordinates transportation planning.

Peterson, the panel moderator, said the high-speed rail project requires the cooperation of many agencies, as well as an informed public along the proposed route. She also said planners need to consider issues in California.

A similar project to link Los Angeles to San Francisco faced long delays and higher-than-expected costs in 2008, when voters approved $9 billion in bonds for what was expected to be a $33 billion project. . The latest estimate is $113 billion. State lawmakers have released $4.2 billion to complete a 171-mile segment through the Central Valley.

“My goal here is to make sure you all know how to work better in the future, and not just on this project,” she said.

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