Council OKs plan to get unimproved roads out of the mud

Portland's City Council agreed Thursday to adopt Mayor Sam Adams’ Out of the Mud plan, which allows new bare-bones options for adding streets and sidewalks in neighborhoods without them.

Portland has an embarrassing 45 miles of dirt roads in residential areas, plus many more miles of neighborhood streets without adjacent sidewalks.

The city hasn’t budgeted much money over the years to pave those streets and sidewalks. Instead, it’s largely relied on charging residents or developers via local improvement districts. Those LIDs, which must be approved by a majority of affected property owners, typically charge the owners of a 50-foot-wide residential lot $300 a month for 20 years. Costs are high largely because of the city’s steep requirements. Homeowners must pay the full costs of wide asphalt streets with room for parked cars, concrete sidewalks, grassy parking strips and storm drainage.

Many homeowners have resisted paying, leaving their streets muddy and dusty. Some residents like living without sidewalks and paved streets, while others complain they make the area look rundown or slum-like, and unsafe for children and others.

To cut the daunting costs, the Out of the Mud plan relaxes the city’s steep requirements. The new standards will allow residents to merely pay for a narrow strip of asphalt and adjacent gravel, designed to to be shared by parking, pedestrians and bicyclists. That could cost residents as low as $65 a month for 20 years, instead of $300.

Many Portland neighborhoods have similar roads, especially those originally built outside of city limits.

There’s also features in Out of the Mud to add a sidewalk or two, which would bump up the costs.

To learn more, check out Adam’s video explanation of the program: vimeo.com/54552733.