Officials search for funding solutions as roads reach disrepair

by: NEWS PHOTO: SCOTT JORGENSEN - The section of Wade Street right off of Highway 224 is one of the worst in Estacada. Estacada has a big problem, and it runs right through the middle of the city.

Many of the main streets, including Main Street itself, are in bad shape. And the city is running low on resources and options to bring those streets back up to good working condition.

“Our streets are hitting the failing stage,” said city councilor Sean Drinkwine. “They’ve been in disrepair for years.”

City Manager Bill Elliott said the cost of the deferred maintenance is now in the “millions” of dollars.

In years past, the city would use small cities grants to help fund the needed repair work. Such a grant was used to fix Second Street.

But the process for obtaining those grants has become much more competitive, as the grants doubled from $25,000 to $50,000.

“That made it worthwhile for other cities to go after it,” Elliott said. “Since we’ve already gotten grants, we got shipped to the bottom of the list.”

Money is available through urban renewal funds, but Elliott said that is probably not a viable option.

“That funding is dependent on increased assessed value,” he said. “Putting money into the streets doesn’t help us that way.”

Two years ago, the city did some crack sealing on several streets. But that was a temporary fix, far from a long-term solution.

“That has saved those streets for probably another five years,” Elliott said. “But once a street is gone, there’s no hope for it. We’re getting into that situation with a lot of the streets in town.”

A local gas tax has been floated as an option, but citizens have been reluctant to pursue that particular path in years past.

Drinkwine said a seasonal gas tax could draw revenue from the tourists who pass through the area between May and October, without affecting residents during the winter months.

Elliott said such a tax could be “another option” for funding street repairs.

“A gas tax really is the answer, when you get right down to it,” he said. “That would give us dedicated money that we could put on the streets. It wouldn’t go to anything else.”

In the meantime, the city will continue to go after whatever grants are available.

“We’ll keep applying for small cities grants and anything else that comes along,” Elliott said. “But everything is competitive now with grants. The state is in just as much trouble as the counties, which are in just as much trouble as the cities. Money is very, very tight.”

Drinkwine said the city is at a “critical point” right now with its road infrastructure.

“If we don’t do something, we’ll be worse off,” Drinkwine said. “There’s no patching that we can do at this point.”

Elliott agrees.

“It’s not going to get any cheaper,” Elliott said. “It’s certainly not going to get any better.”

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