Clackamas County Board sets May advisory vote on voter-approved funding for road maintenance
In response to the continuing need for road funds in Clackamas County, on Feb. 25 the Board of Commissioners approved placing an advisory vote on the May 17 ballot.
The question approved by the board is: “Shall the county pursue voter-approved funding for a limited number of years, for deferred road maintenance?”
Commissioners agreed that any options put forward would be for a limited time and would include a list of the specific maintenance and safety projects that would be accomplished with the funds generated.
Clackamas County is responsible for 1,400 miles of roads. More than half of these roads are in fair-to-poor condition. Since the county is not allowed to pay for road maintenance with property tax revenue, and since road funding revenue has remained nearly static for more than 20 years, there is now a $265 million gap between the amount of road maintenance needed and available funds.
The county relies on three primary sources of revenue for road maintenance – state gas taxes, state heavy-weight mile taxes (from trucks) and state vehicle registration/title fees. State gas taxes have only increased once since 1993 and do not adjust for inflation.
Without needed funding, our roads will deteriorate further.
Clackamas County is at the crossroads of an expensive problem. The county is facing a $17 million annual shortfall for road maintenance, due to escalating costs and the loss of stable funding.
Because the cost of restoring a degraded road is 10 times more than the cost of preventive maintenance, our problem becomes bigger by the year.
Delaying maintenance will result in deteriorating roads, which will decrease the safety of our roads.
Smooth pavement, well-marked intersections, unobstructed sight lines and clear lane markings are all critical to maintaining safe roads. Clackamas County lacks the funds to continue maintenance at the level needed to maintain all our roadways.
We need to find stable local funding to protect our roads, avoid a larger future financial burden, reduce the wear and tear on cars, and protect property values.
Why not move funding from other services or programs?
Oregon law expressly prohibits using property taxes – the County’s largest source of funding – for road maintenance. Similar restrictions apply to other sources of funds the County receives. Consequently it is not possible to reallocate funds intended for other services or programs to finance road maintenance.
What can be done?
The safety of our roads is at risk. We need to find a solution. We are reviewing the possible implementation of a limited, countywide vehicle registration fee (VRF) to begin needed maintenance and safety projects. The VRF would be temporary and dedicated to specific projects across the county.