Tigard task force to pursue local gas tax

Public can weigh in at 2 November town hall meetings on the proposal

TIGARD - A city task force got the green light from the City Council on Tuesday to proceed with a proposal to implement a gasoline tax inside the city limits to pay for street improvements.

The Transportation Financing Strategies Task Force has recommended establishing a 3-cent-per-gallon local gas tax to pay for improvements to the Greenburg Road/Pacific Highway/Main Street intersection.

The tax is expected to produce between $900,000 and $1 million annually and would expire in five years. The improvements are expected to cost $3.5 million to $4 million, according to City Engineer Gus Duenas.

At its Aug. 8 meeting the council directed task force members to meet with gas station dealers to obtain their input on the proposed tax.

On Aug. 28, task force members met with some gas dealers, who complained that the new tax would put Tigard gas stations at a competitive disadvantage.

'They claim they cannot pass on the new tax to customers but would have to absorb the increase to remain in business,' Duenas noted in a staff report to the council Tuesday. 'Suggestions were made at the meeting on other ways to spread the burden among businesses in the city, including the possibility of a surcharge on the business tax as a funding source.'

The task force discussed the issue further at its Aug. 30 meeting, which was attended by two gas station owners and a representative from the Oregon Petroleum Association, and decided to bring the issue back to the council.

The council agreed to hold a couple of town halls in November to get more public input on the plan, with the dates to be announced later.

'We have been doing a survey of gasoline prices in the metro area,' Duenas said Wednesday. 'Tigard is currently around $2.81 to $2.85 per gallon, while West Linn is $2.89 and $2.87. Prices appear to get higher as you go north into Portland. It really depends on where you are.

'I don't think (a local gas tax) would place Tigard dealers at a disadvantage. We hope at the town halls to get them to recognize the need for these funds. The time is now for the funding. If the Hall Boulevard construction project continues on its scheduled path, the Greenburg/Pacific Highway/Main Street intersection should be done at the same time.'

The Oregon Department of Transportation will be adding lanes on Hall to provide one left-turn lane, one right-turn lane and a third one for through traffic in each direction.

The improvements to Greenburg and Main would mirror those on Hall, Duenas said. Both streets would be widened at their intersection with Pacific Highway.

Because funds collected through the street-maintenance fee cannot be used for new construction, the task force proposed a new source of revenue like the gas tax, Duenas said.

'Once you have a stream of revenue, you can issue bonds and then repay them as the money comes in,' he added.