Evans pitches ‘frollies’ to Monmouth Council

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE — Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) is hoping to steer some transportation money toward a new trolley system for Monmouth, Independence and Western Oregon University.

“Right now Independence is working on a letter of concept for what this would look like and they will be getting that to us,” said Monmouth Mayor Steve Milligan. “That will probably be the first point where we will probably need to ask more questions and start to do the decision process.”

David Clyne, Independence city manager, confirmed they are working on a letter.

“This will come to council when we have a draft proposal ready,” he said. “Should be in the next month or two.”

Evans pitched the concept to the Monmouth City Council at their Aug. 21 meeting and said Milligan was part of initials conversations to put together a proposal for the project.

He said he hoped it will not add a burden, but instead provide a “doorway for partnership.”

“HB 2017, which euphemistically is known as the transportation package that was passed out of the Oregon legislature in 2017, is now pretty much gone into full effect with the transit dollars flowing,” Evans said. “As of July 1, I believe, the employee tax piece of that state-wide was put into effect and there was more money for transit. Both intra-community and inter-community.

“I say that because right now there is a convergence of opportunities that my office is working on leadership in the Oregon House to try and present an opportunity that seizes upon those things that are coming together,” he said. “For example, there’s been a lot of talk in town for a long time about trollies or perhaps better known as frollies because they’re not going to be on a rail system so it’s fake trollies. They look cool and they transport people.”

The proposal would be put together by the three governments to request money from the legislature that he’s working on setting aside for a comprehensive usage and need transit study, he said.

“There’s been a lot of good work done so far and many different people throughout the community have had this vision for a long time,” Evans said. “This is the moment now if we’re ever going to work with the Salem-Keizer transit board as they are looking to expand their regional scope.”

He said, once the study is complete, they may have a better “opportunity to figure out what partners we want to leverage and how we want to move forward as a region.”

Evans said they are “trying to put some of the transit dollars to better use so that it regionalizes a lot of the parking issues, a lot of the use of the roads issues.”

Councilor Jon Carey asked Evans what he expected the study to look like.

“The way this type of process can be funded, requires a feasibility study on what type of transit you’re looking at,” Evans said. “What communities of interest would be utilized, what type of funding model could be utilized and funding model. For example, if the process was set up so that it was tied in to help Medicaid Medicare folks get to their appointments, if it was tied in to help folks who right now are perhaps at or slightly above poverty line, be able to get to work and not get to work, those types of connections right now, have very high interest among the legislature on priorities for funding.”

A study might also be able to prove that it would keep a certain amount of cars off the road for an amount of time that could put off highway upgrades, Evans said.

“Those types of issues typically are involved in a comprehensive study like we’re looking at,” Evans said. “The goal is, once that’s in place, then we can show models around the country where it has worked, then once we know what the market is then we can actually look to see which partners want to be involved.”

In the long term, Evans said he hopes the three governments put out a request for proposals “or form a nonprofit or whatever is the most likely vehicle to be able to provide that service so that the cities don’t get in the business of doing a transit but rather the region has a service that’s both for moving people around and perhaps with an additional vehicle or two for tourism activities outside the region that could actually bring other communities in.”

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