Most County candidates support widening I-205
Local vehicle registration fee to pay for roads also garners support during recent discussion of transportation issues
Candidates for three Clackamas County commissioner positions generally agree on transportation issues facing the region: Most support a widening of Interstate 205 from two to three traffic lanes over the 5.9-mile stretch between Stafford Road outside Lake Oswego and the George Abernethy Bridge in Oregon City.
The multimillion-dollar project involves mostly state and federal money.
I-205 is designated as one of the nations 88 high-priority corridors in the most recent renewal of federal transportation spending. Money isnt automatic, but a separate provision authorizes minimum grants of $25 million for nationally significant freight and highway projects costing at least $100 million.
Most of the candidates also say they support a local vehicle registration fee of $25, which would be tacked onto the statewide annual fee of $43. Proceeds would be split 60-40 between the county and cities for road work. (The fees are collected every other year.)
Voters will be asked to decide on the May 17 ballot whether the county should pursue local funding for road work. Measure 3-478 doesn't specify a source for the funding, such as a registration fee or a local fuel tax. Commissioners would refer that question to voters in November.
During a recent forum in Wilsonville, all of the candidates were asked what specific steps they would support in the next five years to relieve auto and freight congestion and whether and how the county should raise new funding sources for road work. Ken Humberston of Oregon City was absent from the forum but invited by Pamplin Media Group to offer a response.
Here's what they had to say:
CHAIRMAN (Position 1)
John Ludlow of Wilsonville, incumbent:
He supports I-205 widening: We continue to dump more funds, including federal flexible funds, into mass transit and not pay attention to congestion... When is enough enough? So I-205 is necessary.
He supports a local registration fee: My intention is to get to a yes vote in May, and then ask people in November: Will you pay a tankful of gas every year to bring your roads back up to where they should be? Over half our roads are in fair to poor condition. Thats not conducive to good business in Clackamas County.
Dan Holladay, Oregon City mayor:
He supports I-205 widening: I think that is a very important piece of our transportation... Unlike Metro, I think building roads does reduce traffic. We have to keep doing that. We have to work together with our cities to make things happen. Right now, the county isnt working well with the cities.
On a local funding source: I would support a vehicle registration fee if it were dedicated to road transportation, if you put out a list of the things you are going to do, you limit it by time, and if you prove to the people that they could trust them. Thats what weve done (with a street fee) in Oregon City.
Paul Savas of Oak Grove, commissioner:
He supports both widening of I-205 and improvements on the east-west Sunrise Corridor (Highway 212) linking Clackamas and Boring. We know there are no congested bike lanes or sidewalks, just congested highways and freeways. That is where we need to invest our dollars right now.
He is leaning toward a local registration fee, lasting five to seven years, for the county to carry out 47 specific projects. But he also said the limited fee would raise only about a third of the estimated $17 million needed annually to bring county roads back to good condition. In the long game, to get seconds and thirds, were going to have to go to the voters no matter what, so we need to gain back their trust.
Jim Bernard of Milwaukie, commissioner:
He supports I-205 widening and improvements on the Boone Bridge that carries I-5 across the Willamette River near Wilsonville.
If there are future tolls, he says, they should apply on both I-5 and I-205 so that traffic congestion does not worsen by motorists using a toll-free route.
He supports a local registration fee: We have $400 million we need to get our roads up to good condition. Thats not much better than Portland. We have 1,400 miles. We cant wait any longer. The price is going to get very high.
Martha Schrader of Canby, incumbent:
During her first stint as a commissioner from 2003 to 2009, she advocated the first-phase development of the Sunrise Corridor, and she has long supported I-205 widening. But a project of that kind takes anywhere from 10 to 20 years, because you have to get into the queue and meet federal requirements.
On a local funding source, I am hopeful that the third time is the charm, that finally, as a commission, we can get our message out there after voters rejected local funding measures in 2004 and 2007. Otherwise, she said, the pavement condition of county roads will continue to worsen.
Steve Bates of Boring:
On short-term congestion relief, he would go to the regional funding panel and for every dollar they want to spend on public transit, we spend one dollar on asphalt, new lanes or roads.
Before he supports a local funding source, We must make sure the road fund is being spent on asphalt. In the budget cycle last year, $6.1 million was proposed to be spent on things that are not asphalt... In the event that we do that we prove to taxpayers that we are spending asphalt money the way it should be spent then I would be in favor of a vehicle registration fee.
Jenifer Valley of Happy Valley:
On congestion relief: Public transit always has been extremely important to me. But even as a passenger, I have noticed the long wait times if you are silly enough to leave Wilsonville after 3 in the afternoon. We definitely need some federal funding to improve I-205 and I-5.
On local funding, she supports small increases in gasoline taxes and registration fees.
Tootie Smith of Mulino, incumbent:
She supports widening of I-5. If this county commission did not stand up against the Columbia River Crossing and say I-205 needs a third lane, I doubt it would have gotten the attention it has.
On a local funding source, The bottom line is that we must earn the respect and trust of the voters... To me, it does not matter what it (source) is. We have a deficit of $17 million per year that will grow if we do not start addressing it. She does support a specific list of projects to be completed within a fixed period.
Ken Humberston of Oregon City:
I do support both forms of local funding for roads as well as state and federal partnerships where appropriate. I also support multimodal transportation alternatives that could relieve congestion, along with expansion of 205 in particular.
Other alternatives, such as commuter incentives to get people to use more public transportation and more feeder buses to get commuters to light rail, would help.
Finally, long term, the more we can create good family-wage jobs in Clackamas County, the less traffic we will have commuting to Washington and Multnomah counties.
Bill King, Sandy mayor:
On a local funding source: I would identify and implement all funding sources, one of those being a vehicle registration fee. I would advocate for a gas tax as well.
The price of repairing and maintaining these roads is going up. The longer we kick this can down the road, the more expensive it will be. Many people think our 1,400 miles of county roads are in good shape... but they dont necessarily see the condition of some of the county roads.
Sandy is proposing a fuel tax of 3 cents per gallon on the May 17 ballot to raise money for city streets.