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Springfield lawmaker appointed to Transportation Commission over objections of environmental groups

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Chris Lehman
/
KLCC
Oregon lawmakers confirmed the appointment of Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, to the Oregon Transportation Commission.

A long-time state lawmaker from Springfield will have a new role once his current term is over. The Oregon Senate on Friday confirmed Gov. Kate Brown’s appointment of Democratic Sen. Lee Beyer to the Oregon Transportation Commission.

Beyer’s selection came over the objection of environmental groups, who wrote a letter to Brown suggesting that Beyer would be a step backward for the commission, which plays a key role in setting the state’s transportation policy. The letter was first reported on by Willamette Week.

"This appointment continues the outdated legacy of appointing only people who regularly get around by private vehicle, ignoring representation of those who are locked out of that opportunity by disability or poverty," the letter read in part. "It fails to incorporate the concerns of youth and older adults about their own needs for transportation and for their future in an increasingly dire climate crisis."

Beyer also had his supporters during the appointment process.

"Beyer has unquestionably been one of Oregon’s most effective leaders advancing multi-modal transportation infrastructure, and modernization policy and funding proposals in Oregon," wrote Andrew Hoan, President and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance in testimony submitted to the Senate Rules Committee. "He has successfully worked to find the right balance between expanding transportation access, supporting the movement of goods, maintaining our infrastructure, and reducing carbon emissions."

Beyer told the committee this week that he stands by his environmental record, especially given his role in the passage of a massive transportation spending package in 2017.

“I have heard recently that a lot of people are concerned that I’m only concerned about roads, which is not true," he said. "I would draw peoples’ attention back to what we did in 2017, which included the largest infusion in the state’s history in expanding transit.”

Beyer’s appointment was confirmed 22-to-2. The role is unpaid and his term begins in January.

Beyer served in the Oregon House, and later the Senate, in the 1990's. He returned to the legislature in 2011 after a stint on the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”