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City Council to discuss street funding Wednesday

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The City Council will receive a presentation on the City Club of Portland's street funding recommendations on Wednesday.

"After decades of underfunding, many of Portland's roads, sidewalks and bike lanes have fallen into disrepair, adding up to an incredibly expensive — and still increasing — maintenance backlog," the lonstanding civic organization wrote the council on Dec. 15, 2015.

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick have already expressed support for one of the recommendations — a ballot measure to impose a city gas tax to help fund maintenance and safety projects. They tried but failed to convince the majority of the council to approve a variety of street funding proposals in 2014.

But the study report adopted by the City Club last September includes a number other recommendations, too. Among them are:

• The identification of new, long-term revenue streams closely tied to usage, such as a local weight-and-value-based vehicle registration fee; a commuter payroll tax on out-of-city employees; and new parking permits and fees.

• Passage of a new transportation funding package by the 2017 Oregon legislature that increases the state gas tax and allows local governments to raise new revenues.

• A requirement that 50 percent of future city budget surpluses go towards maintaining city infrastructure, something the City Council has already approved, although the total amount is not dedicated to streets.

"Portland has long been known as a city capable of finding innovative solutions to complex challenges, and we have every confidence that we will once again live up to this reputation. We appreciate the Council's attention to this issue, and the opportunity to present the full findings and recommendations of our report," the City Club letter says.

Among other things, the report found Portland needs to spend $205 million a year for the next 10 years just to catch up on streets repairs, maintenance and safety improvements. It is only spending a fraction of that amount now.

You can read the letter and report at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=50265&a=558864