Official says harsh winter prompts inspections that normally occur every four years; pavement conditions exceed targets in some areas, not in others

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Washington County will survey roads this summer to assess damage from winter storms.Many roads maintained by Washington County will be surveyed this summer to assess potential damage from unusually harsh winter storms.

"That way we will know exactly what we have to work with," says Todd Watkins, principal engineer and acting director of the Operations & Maintenance Division within the county Department of Land Use and Transportation.

Watkins spoke Thursday (May 18) during a budget hearing of the Urban Road Maintenance District, which is governed by county commissioners but is legally separate from county government.

Watkins said roads are normally surveyed every four years, so the pavement inspections this year are out of the ordinary — and so is the likely damage.

He spoke the week after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a state request for aid, although that request focused on damage from the storms to farmers and others in Eastern Oregon.

The district pays for maintenance of some roads in urban unincorporated areas with about one-third (200,000) of the county's population. It was formed in 1987 and first funded in 1994.

The 2017-18 district budget, which won approval, is $7.3 million. The tax rate is 24.56 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value.

The district has 362 miles of roads classified as "urban local" and 84 miles of roads designated as neighborhood routes. It encompasses areas generally north, east and west of Beaverton.

The average Pavement Condition Index for those roads in 2016 was 81, surpassing the target of 75. A newly paved road would rate 100 — the best possible condition — on the index originally developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The district excludes the busier urban roads and all rural roads, all of which are under countywide maintenance.

The average Pavement Condition Index for the 131 miles of urban arterial roads in 2016 was 75, compared with a target of 80; for the 73 miles of urban collector roads, 74, compared with a target of 75.

Some of those roads may be physically within the district, but their upkeep is paid from the county road fund, not the property taxes levied by the district.

The picture was mixed for rural roads, which Watkins said account for more total miles (418 to 204) but only about 6 percent of traffic.

For rural arterials, the average Pavement Condition Index in 2016 was 75, compared with a target of 80; for rural collectors, 79, with a target of 75, and for rural local roads, 68, with a target of 65.

Andy Duyck, chairman of the county board, said some roads are likely to be considerably worse given that the figures for each category are averages.

Still, he said, the county will need more money to maintain the busier urban arterials and collector roads.

Even within the Urban Road Maintenance District, the average Pavement Condition Index is projected to fall gradually from the current 81 to 75 by 2023.

The district proposes to spend $2.2 million in the coming year for eight safety improvement projects. It will be the sixth year it has done so.

But Duyck said the district's primary purpose is road maintenance, so there will be less money available for such improvements as maintenance needs increase.

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