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State must fix road funding

Oregon's immense transportation problems cannot be solved one city at a time.

Gresham, Beaverton, Eugene and Tigard are among cities struggling to keep up with local road repairs and congestion issues.

Late last year, Tigard took the leap by adopting its own gas tax. Now, Beaverton is examining a whole host of options - including a street utility fee or a city impact fee on new development - to raise as much as $6 million a year.

Meanwhile, Eugene's City Council is considering adding 3 cents to its present 5-cent gas tax. And the city of Gresham just completed an audit of its transportation fund, only to discover it had a $23 million backlog in road maintenance.

Gresham's audit was specific to this city, but its results exemplify the sad state of transportation in Oregon: Cities, counties and the state are way behind with road repair, congestion relief, safety and expanded road and other transportation needs. The problem is an old one. Oregon has not increased the gas tax it shares with cities and counties since 1993. But solutions enacted one city at a time are not the answer. They serve as a piecemeal approach that will result in Oregon communities becoming a mixture of transportation haves and have-nots.

Instead, city council members, as well as community and business leaders, should press the Legislature to approve strategic investments in transportation solutions that link communities, adequately maintain existing roads and invest in highways that support the economy.

There is little assurance the Legislature will act without first having citizen, civic and business leaders make a strong and convincing case. Politicians don't like raising taxes without support back home. But if the alternative is to increase taxes city by city, then legislators are simply pushing their responsibilities off onto local governments.

Citizens would be better served by a statewide funding solution to provide improved, safer roads throughout Oregon.