State gas tax, fee hikes local boon
Cities and counties across Oregon are expected to reap financial rewards from the Legislature's $5.3 billion transportation plan that will hike the state's gas tax and a number of vehicle-related fees.
While state residents may feel the pinch, Yamhill County is expected to get a $25.8 million windfall for street-related projects during the plan's 10-year period, with cities in the county likely to see new funding of their own.
"(For) anybody that's in charge of some of the infrastructure, there is definitely a backlog of everything that needs to be done," said John Phelan, Yamhill County roads director.
The $5.3 billion, 10-year transportation plan from the state – scaled back from an earlier $8 billion plan – covers a wide array of projects and programs throughout the state, including $22 million for designing Phase II of the Newberg-Dundee bypass.
The plan hikes the state's existing 30-cent gas tax gradually over a seven-year period to a total of 40 cents. Registration fees would climb by $13 and title fees by $16 in 2018. Beginning in 2020, the state would move toward a tiered system of registration and title fees based on a vehicle's gas mileage.
The plan also levies a 0.5-percent tax on the purchase of new vehicles. About $12 million of the revenue from the proceeds of the vehicle excise tax would be used for rebates on the purchase of electric vehicles.
A $15 flat fee would be charged on the purchase of new adult bicycles with a price tag of more than $200. The proceeds of that would go toward paying for commuter bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Those increases in state taxes and fees will mean that the cities and counties will also see a boost in their regular cut of that revenue, according to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Lou Torres.
Yamhill County is expected to see a total of nearly $25.8 million in the five biennia – or the next 10 years – according to documents provided by Torres. That would start at about $2.3 million over the next two years and rise to more than $6.9 million in the 2025-2027 cycle.
Noting that the county won't see any of that funding this fiscal year, Phelan said the county has about 350 miles of gravel roads and 400 miles of asphalt roads to maintain, and he'd particularly like to see efforts to pave high-use gravel roads get a piece of that new funding.
He also noted that many of the county's paved roads were initially built decades ago with a mixture of gravel and oil and could use some attention.
"There's very little structural integrity in our system, so we need to improve that," he said.
He said he hoped that the funding would be put toward funding repairs and materials rather than new staff or programs.
Like Newberg, Dundee City Administrator Rob Daykin said the city will likely put the increased funding toward making sure its road system doesn't deteriorate any more than it has.
Under the state's appropriations plan, Dundee is expected to see nearly $764,000 over the next 10 years. That would start at about $70,000 split over the next two years and grow to more than $205,000 by the 2025-2027 cycle.
In an email, Daykin explained that the city-wide "Pavement Condition Index" (an overall city average on a 100-point scale) was expected to drop from 78 in 2018 to 74 in 2014. He noted that the mid-80s is considered "good" and the ideal rating for a city.
"With the additional revenue from HB 2017 we should not see a drop in the overall system condition, but would still be short of making significant progress to improving the overall condition," Daykin said.
As with Newberg, he noted that the city consultant's algorithm prioritizes keeping working streets in good condition at the expense of streets that have failed, which means Dundee's poor streets still are not likely to get much attention even with the new funding.
"Hopefully we will be able to pick up a grant from time to time to address the streets in the poorest condition," he said.