Friday, June 7, 2013

Policy Making In Oregon

In the book “Nature for Transport Policy” public policy is defined as the way by which governments “attempt to resolve the social, political, economic and environmental goals of society” (Slack and Notteboom). Slack and Notteboom further argue in their book that transportation policy, “ought to be dynamic and evolutionary.” Indeed policy should function to change the troubling reality that access to resources from wealth to health is not evenly distributed among everyone. Therefore, it is important that state government create and support strategies of policy promotion that positively impact not only state economies but also their residents. Furthermore, it becomes equally important for state government to open up the policy making process to stakeholders in the local communities in order to specifically and successfully address their needs and concerns.
One example of this kind of policy making is the process used by Oregon’s Department of Transportation. While historically policy has been created and driven from the top down, ODOT has sought a more collaborative process that invites other stakeholders into the policy making process.
Oregon’s department of Transportation (ODOT) mission is “to provide a safe, efficient transportation system that supports economic opportunity and livable communities throughout the state” (About Us: Oregon Department of Transportation ). In a state with a wide range of economics, geographic features and demographics, how does ODOT seek to achieve its mission statement? What is the process by which the department decides on what gets funding and maintenance work and what doesn’t?
ODOT attempts different approaches in different areas in order to meet the specific needs of particular communities. And ODOT’s collaborative process involves the invitation of other stakeholders, like developers and local communities who help identify issues as well as create solutions to transportation problems.  Many times when policy is set without a collaborative process, there are parties that are at a disadvantage. In order to combat exclusive transportation policy making, but ODOT has decided to set about making policy in a much more collaborative way, to ensure that all Oregonians have access to the transportation that they need.
What does this consensus building process look like? The department of transportation has “sought advice from the Oregon Commission on Dispute Resolution and began 'negotiated rulemaking' as a way to develop the required rules for setting future policy. Negotiated rulemaking is a process by which a government agency works together with interested parties to develop agreement on a proposed rulemaking action” (Ohs). Interested parties can range from local governments and developers, to concerned citizens. There is a lot to gain from collaboration. Ultimately fewer backlashes can be expected from the implementation of such a policy that considers the specific needs of different communities throughout Oregon. “Because all the key interests were involved in developing the access management rule, the final draft generated little controversy” (Ohs). Karl Ohs goes on to describe access management as a “broad set of strategies that balance the need to provide safe and efficient travel with the ability to access individual destinations.”
                In order for Oregon to address issues like congestion, road maintenance, pedestrian and bicycle safety, ODOT must take into account the concerns of stakeholders and how they are impacted by policy set. It is important that transportation policy not exclude people, especially those in working low income communities, from accessing potential economic opportunity. Plans that concern the entire state, like its highway system, need to take this into account. Opening up this discussion of policy making to non-traditional parties allow the collaborative process to accommodate the transportation needs of all Oregonians.
            Transportation, whether it is public or individual mobility, has a great influence on economic activity as well as matters of land use and equity. ODOT’s collaborative process for issues of safe and reliable accessibility to transportation causes less contention amongst local communities as well as help aide the stability of local socio-economic activity. ODOT’s consensus building process demonstrates that policy making can improve not only transportation concerns but also larger economic and social concerns while providing specific transportation needs to the public.

Works Cited

About Us: Oregon Department of Transportation . n.d. 30 May 2013 <>.
Ohs, Karl. "Negotiating Transportation Policy Rules in Oregon." n.d. May 2013 <>.

Slack, Dr. Brian and Dr. Theo Notteboom. The Nature of Transport Policy . 2011. 30 May 2013 <>.

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