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State panel to examine region's transportation future

Oregon's population is pushing 4 million and growing.

Moving all those people and the goods to sustain their lives and communities is continually getting more complex and expensive.

To tackle these problems, Governor Kate Brown has formed the 30-member Governor’s Transportation Vision Panel. The panel is tasked with developing a long-term plan and near-term recommendations to solve transportation issues across the state.

The panel, broken down into five subcommittees, will submit its recommendations to Gov. Brown this spring.

The Rogue Valley will be the subject of one of  11 regional reviews that involve a panel discussion open to the public. The event will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 8, at Jackson County Public Works Auditorium, 200 Antelope Road, White City.

Nearly an hour will be set aside for public input on the preliminary findings and half an hour is set aside to discuss regional needs and priorities.

"The objective is to take a comprehensive look at all of Oregon's transportation needs, identify existing infrastructure, forecast the needs ahead 30 years and to provide platform to construct policy to meet those needs," said Rogue Valley resident Mike Montero, a member of the Aviation, Marine and Freight Rail Subcommittee.

Montero, who is also chairman of the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation, said broad-ranging advice will inform future dialogue concerning transportation, what it will look like and allocation of resources.

"The finding won't direct transportation one way or another," he said.

Montero considers the forthcoming document will be along the lines of estate planning.

"When you start planning for the future, you know changes will occur, so you tailor it to be a living document," he said. "As circumstances change, it helps guide your decisions."

Chamber of Medford/Jackson County CEO Brad Hicks is a member of the Roadways and Bridges Subcommittee.

"We've had the 'if money were no option' conversations, but we know there are limitations," he said.

Ultimately, he said, the subcommittee homed in on the importance of preserving the roads and bridges important to the economic vitality of all parts of the state.

"We have a multi-billion investment in roads and bridges in Oregon," Hicks said. "We want to make sure to take care of what we have now to maximize costs savings."

During brainstorming sessions, he said, the Columbia River crossing was revisited, along with improvements to Highway 62 north of Vilas Road, and expanding Highway 97 to four lanes.

Draft summaries from the five subcommittees: Roadways and Bridges; Bike, Pedestrian, Transit and Passenger Rail; Aviation, Marine, and Freight Rail; Innovation and Seismic; and Transportation Finance are available at visionpanel.wordpress.com/preliminary-findings/

—Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31