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Countywide panel looks into fixing roads

A panel concerned with countywide issues will work for at least the next year on the daunting task of finding ways to fix the county's many miles of roads as well as the even more difficult mission of how to pay the ever-increasing price with dwindling funds.

The panel with this formidable assignment is the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee (C-4 for short) - a group of more than 30 people from all walks of life, all types of responsibilities and hailing from all areas of the county.

Jeremy Pietzold is a member of the C-4 executive committee as well as a Sandy city councilor. After the group's first meeting of this year, last week, Pietzold says the group is trying to break the chore down into manageable parts.

'The direction (of the C-4 committee) for this year and maybe longer,' Pietzold said, 'is transportation. We're brainstorming right now about what the needs are either inside cities or outside in the unincorporated areas.'

As with all large committees, Pietzold says there are a lot of ideas being expressed. The committee eventually will sift through the ideas and rank them by priority.

'(The committee) is looking at what can be done collectively throughout Clackamas County,' Pietzold said. 'That means in the cities, villages, hamlets and unincorporated areas.'

Funding transportation projects has been a problem for many jurisdictions, so this panel must select options that are feasible in today's economy.

Gas taxes, Pietzold said, aren't enough to maintain city or county roads, because some cities don't have gas taxes and the state has put a moratorium on raising gas taxes. The city of Sandy, he said, has it better than some cities because it had a 2-cent-per-gallon tax in place before the state put a freeze on those taxes.

The problem of repairing streets has been hit with a double whammy, Pietzold said, with drivers piling on more miles - thus causing more road damage - while at the same time they are driving cars that are more fuel efficient, thus paying fewer gas tax dollars.

There's actually a triple whammy, with the onset of inflation affecting material and labor costs.

'To keep roads from going into disrepair,' he said, 'the costs of maintenance keep going up because of inflation, but the amount of gas tax money is going down.'

The committee has representatives from each of the county's jurisdictions such as cities, villages, hamlets and rural areas as well as special districts, the county commission and Metro.

After vetting popular options, the C-4 committee advises each of the jurisdictions, including the county commission and Metro, on feasible options for transportation issues.

'The February meeting was brainstorming,' Pietzold said. 'I think the (March) meeting will be about funding mechanisms for transportation projects.'

The panel meets monthly, and even though the group's meetings are public it does not normally allow public comment - unless a group has in advance scheduled a report on a relevant topic.