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Despite record revenue, Portland road budget is broke

February 28, 2012

Eric Fruits,
Econ International
Oregon economist

The Oregonian seems to have picked up on our earlier posts about misplaced priorities and self-inflicted budget woes at the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The story so far can be told in four pictures.

1. Record revenues at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Discretionary” money has almost doubled since 2000. The city’s excuse that there it has no wiggle room in budgeting simply is not true.

2. A paving backlog that stretches to San Francisco.Portland’s paving backlog has grown by more than 500 miles since 1999. By 2008, Portland had a backlog big enough to pave a two lane road from Pioneer Courthouse Square to San Francisco. Taking the philosophy that a problem doesn’t exist if it can’t be measured, the city stopped calculating the road paving backlog in 2008.
3. Despite Portland’s deteriorating roads, the city has virtually stopped repaving projects. Over the past 10 years, paving projects have dropped from 127 miles in 2001 to a forecast of about 25 miles this year. That’s a five-fold decrease.

4. As roads deteriorate, bike lanes and streetcars boom. Virtually in sync with the growth in the city’s paving backlog, the city has put more and more resources into “alternative” modes of transportation.

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Bob Clark February 28, 2012

Thanks for seemingly sparking the Oregonian to report (Sunday Oregonian, 2/26/12) on the routine mis-spending of public transportation monies by Portland city hall. This Oregonian article I think had one weakness concerning the history of Portland’s lack of a street fee for paying for street maintenance. If I recall correctly, the city of Portland during the Bud Clark mayorial era expanded the city’s various utility franchise fees with the understanding the increase in resulting revenues were to be devoted to street repair. But as so often is the case, subsequent Portland city halls raided these new monies and spent them on more conspicuous public consumption.

What was also irritating about this past Sunday’s Oregonian is while their front page story talks of the city devoting too much money to new street car lines and light rail projects (versus routine street maintenance and repair), it runs its own editorial in a subsequent section lamblasting the U.S. House Representatives for trying to change the federal transportation funding formula so local governments have more discretion over how their federal transportation dollars are spent (so they can fix streets instead of being restricted to spending on transit projects like street cars and light rail).

Jose Pinomesa February 29, 2012

As a twenty year Portland Car dealer I have been collecting Oregon DMV title and registration fees from everyone I sell a vehicle to. Beginning last September 1st through the next ten years I am also collecting Multnomah County fees for the Sellwood bridge project. It does not at all interest me to collect money that is suppose to go for roads but rather bike paths and rail projects. This is a misappropriation of funds to say the least. Those that have vehicles are paying for projects that have nothing to do with their vehicle and this is just not fair.

Not only are those that drive on Portland streets getting taken for one heck of a ride they also are having to pay more to repair their vehicles because of it. Poor streets ruin tires, cause alignment problems, weaken struts and in some cases ruin body parts.

Portland Bureau of Transportation needs to do better and give those that pay these vehicle related fees what they deserve!

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