During the last week of November, city staff ventured to Washington DC to participate in the US Department of Transportation’s Thriving Communities program, a pilot program meant to provide technical assistance, planning, and capacity-building support to disadvantaged and under-resourced communities, enabling them to advance transportation projects that support community-driven economic development, health, environment, mobility, and access goals. This convening included 64 communities from around the country, with Independence being the sole representative from Oregon. The Department of Transportation covered all the costs of travel and lodging.

In addition to getting the latest information about current and upcoming federal grant programs, city staff learned about effective tools for community engagement, the importance of designing transportation systems that work for all modes and users, how to leverage multiple funding sources for projects, and exchanged ideas with representatives from the other participating communities. Staff are using this program to focus on developing transportation improvements to the Central Talmadge area (the commercial, residential, and public zones around Central Plaza and Central High School) as well as a planned south arterial and new bridge over the south fork of Ash Creek in the southwest part of Independence.

Congresswoman Andrea Salinas

Congresswoman Andrea Salinas and Shawn Irvine

Shawn Irvine and US Senator Ron Wyden

While in DC, Economic Development Director Shawn Irvine also met with Senators Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, and Congresswoman Andrea Salinas and their staff to discuss the importance of continued funding for city infrastructure projects and sustained funding for the MI Trolley, which has significantly exceeded ridership projections. Irvine left those meetings confident that our elected officials understand the needs and challenges of smaller communities and are working to ensure that the massive federal investments in recent years work their way down to places like Independence.

Programs like Thriving Communities help smaller communities like Independence access the funding necessary to maintain and build essential infrastructure while helping make their stories known at the highest levels of government.

Marshall Guthrie, Fred Evander, and Shawn Irvine