By Carolyn Kramer, manager, Transportation Investment Advocacy Center

The City Club of Portland says the Oregon city needs $205 million per year for at least the next decade to catch up on its transportation infrastructure maintenance backlog.

A Sept. 9 report compiled by a volunteer committee found that most of Portland’s roads are in “poor” or “very poor” condition, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure is unsafe due to a lack of traffic signals, sidewalks and street lighting.

The study recommends Portland immediately dedicate as much funding as possible from a budget surplus and the city’s general fund, then put a gas tax measure on the ballot for voter approval. Additionally, the committee urged the city to consider increasing and implementing new fees, including a commuter payroll tax for out-of-city employees and new parking permits. They also recommended exploring vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) fees, and lobbying the state legislature for the ability to charge a weight-and-value-based vehicle registration fee.

“Deferring maintenance is fiscally irresponsible. It doesn’t just kick the can down the road; it also increases the cost of the problem at an accelerating rate,” the committee wrote.

The report comes nine months after Mayor Charlie Hales (D) decided against including a street fee proposal on the city ballot for the next year and a half, and two months after a measure to increase transportation funding failed in the Oregon Legislature.

A 20-year state forecast budget released last year by the Oregon Department of Transportation revealed an additional $405 million per year was needed to maintain current infrastructure and prevent deterioration. Without additional investment, the agency predicts freight markets and businesses will suffer, costing 100,000 jobs, while drivers each pay an average of $380 per year more to repair vehicles.