Escalating road work calls for state action
Oregon's immense transportation problems cannot be solved one city at a time. Portland suffers from Oregon's largest transportation funding gap, but Beaverton, Eugene, Tigard and Gresham are among a growing list of communities struggling to find additional money to repair local roads and reduce congestion.
Late last year, Tigard took the leap by adopting its own gas tax to fund $4.5 million in improvements to only one intersection - the congested confluence of Oregon Highway 99W, Southwest Greenburg Road and Main Street.
Now Beaverton is examining a whole host of options to raise as much as $6 million a year. The possibilities include forming a local improvement district, enacting a street utility fee or establishing a city impact fee on new development.
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 that 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: The state of 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 certainly will result in Oregon communities becoming a mixture of transportation haves and have-nots.
Instead, city council members and 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 local, regional and state economy.
There is little assurance that the Legislature will act without a strong and convincing case made by citizen, civic and business leaders.
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.