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Sandy voters to decide on gas tax in May election

Ballot measure would increase tax to improve local roads


The Sandy City Council approved a resolution at its Feb. 16 meeting that would allow local voters to decide if they want to pay a bit more at the pump as a way to fund future road improvement projects.

The Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax, which appears on the May 17 ballot, proposes raising the local tax from 2-5 cents per gallon for fuel sold within city limits. Funds from the increase would primarily be used to pay for the capital construction of key roads in the transportation system plan.

If approved, the measure would take effect on July 1.

City Council member Carl Exner believes the time is right to move forward with the tax.

“The council’s goal is to be able to take advantage of the changes in the economy to help Sandy grow,” Exner said.

Exner considers those changes to include historically low gas prices paired with a general increase in worker earnings and climbing real estate prices as the economy continues to grow out of its Great Recession doldrums.

“That 3 cents won’t make much of a difference for most people, I hope,” he said.

Exner also pointed to Oregon Department of Transportation figures that show an average of 40,000 vehicles traveling Sandy roads each day. On the weekends and during the peak ski or summer seasons, the numbers can be much higher, he added. Most of those drivers have no long-term connection to Sandy, but are using the roads for tourism or business reasons.

Exner would like to see Sandy’s 10,000 residents benefit from that pass-through traffic, not only to help improve connectivity and convenience, but also as a potential boost to other forms of economic development.

Sandy voters approved the creation of a local motor vehicle fuel tax in 2002, at a tax rate of 1 cent per gallon. Then, in 2009, council approved the fuel tax increase to 2 cents per gallon. City officials do not know how long this current tax would remain in place.

The city has identified 14 road projects it would like to fund with funding generated by the tax. Four of the projects are considered highest priority. Those include an extension of Bell Street West to Southeast 362nd Drive, the extension of Southeast 362nd Drive north to connect with Bell Street or Kelso Road, the extension of Kate Schmidt Avenue north to Bell Street and the extension of Dubarko Road eastward to connect with Highway 26.

Exner said he is most excited about the Dubarko Road extension, as it would effectively create an alternate route for locals and emergency vehicles seeking to avoid the town’s central core.

“That would give us a complete route around the congestion in downtown Sandy,” he said.

Total cost for the 14 projects is estimated at $39.2 million. Monies from the tax could also be directed to planning and potential construction of pedestrian and bike paths, as well as pothole repairs.

“It’s not just for roads, although that’s the biggest piece for us,” he said.

The full resolution can be viewed online at the city’s website, ci.sandy.or.us.


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