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Adams to launch transportation funding “initiative” next week

Posted by on June 15th, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Bicycle Master Plan open house (N/NE)

Adams at Jefferson High last night.
(He’s not sunburned, it’s just
a bad photo.)
(File photo)

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams is gearing up to launch a new transportation funding initiative. Last night at the Bicycle Master Plan open house in North Portland, he stopped by to drop a hint.

As attendees filled out comment forms and discussed the pros and cons of various bike routes, Adams came to the microphone and said,

“The City’s transportation budget has a $422 million backlog and at our current rate, we’re going deeper in the hole by $9 million each year…The work you’re doing tonight will very soon turn into plans for a new funding initiative.”

Adams made it clear that he plans to announce the new initiative next week.

It’s no mystery that the city’s transportation system is woefully underfunded. What remains unknown is what form this initiative will take. Will it be a gas tax? A tax on big SUVs? Increased parking fees? A bond measure?

Adams’ office has been brainstorming to find solutions to the problem ever since it became clear that Republican lawmakers in Salem were not willing to pass an increase in the Gas Tax and eight years of budget cuts to the Office of Transportation (PDOT), which he oversees.

Part of their information gathering strategy is a series of “Neighborhood Town Halls” that begin next week.

Our big-city neighbors to the north, Seattle, are in the midst of a major bond measure campaign to fund their transportation budget shortfall. They call it “Bridging the Gap”.

It’s clear that our transportation network is in serious need of a funding boost…it will be interesting to see how Adams decides to tackle the problem.

Stay tuned…

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  • Jeff June 15, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    GAS TAX GAS TAX GAS TAX, you can control those costs by buying a fuel effecient car, riding your bike, using Tri-met and carpooling, all things government is trying to encourage. When gas was $1 they thought a 10 cent gas tax would spin the economy into a recession. Now gas is $3 & still politicians claim a 10 cent gas tax would destroy the economy. I can\’t afford them raising property taxes (bond measure) to support the amount of road construction and maintainence \”needed\” to please all parties. The gas tax is the only fair way, those who drive, pay for the roads. Banning studded tires could save millions of dollars too, considering only 5% of drivers use them in Portland.

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  • BillD June 15, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    A local (city) gas tax will only drive business to outside the city. There won\’t be much support from the rest of the state for a state gas tax that primarily benefits the city. A more up to date form of funding will be needed… think user fees.

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  • Jeff June 15, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    A Gas tax is a user fee, you use it, you pay. Does it really matter which pocket it comes out of? Bonds increase housing costs, user fees are costly to collect. If you raise the gas tax, state wide, 10 cents, you get all 10 cents, the system is already in place to collect it. If you set up an entirely new entitiy to collect a new kind of tax, you maybe get only 80% of the tax, at best. Hence you collect less money in the end, but it cost the consumer more than tapping into a system that is already in place.

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  • BURR June 15, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    congestion pricing. pay to enter the inner city, pay to drive at peak hours. Limited access toll roads. All done electronically, just like all the bridges and toll roads and bridges in NYC, London, etc.

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  • VR June 15, 2007 at 11:01 pm


    No one disagrees. The Gas tax is the way it SHOULD be handled, at least in the short term.

    However, – the REALITY is that the gas tax will not be increased.

    It just wont. The politicians at the state are scared to death of bringing it up, and voters will not pass it.

    It has been tried and tried before. It is the definition of insanity to try the same thing over and over expecting different results.

    Barring some sort of massive advertising campaign to show people how much they really NEED the gas tax to be increased, there will simply be no increase in the gas tax.

    But roads still need to be maintained, and alternative methods like walking and biking need to be funded too.

    So with no new gas tax, how do we maintain our roads?

    That is the question.

    I say we let roads spiral worse and worse until people decide to foot the *real* cost of roads.

    Oh, and +1 on the banning studs. 🙂

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  • BURR June 15, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    +100 on banning studs!!! ODOT and PDOT are fully aware of the additional maintenance costs of allowing studded tires, but the legislature won\’t prohibit or tax studded tires.

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  • BillD June 15, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Reliance on the gas tax for infrastructure maintenance is one of the causes of the current $422 million backlog.

    The public will to increase the gas tax does not exist. Voters consistently vote against it. A recent city Commissioner spent a lot of time in Salem lobbying on this one issue and came away empty handed.

    The gas tax is a shrinking revenue stream and will continue to be as pressure is brought to bear to get folks out of their cars and into mass transit. Increased commute times, more expensive and hard to find parking, rising cost of fuel and increased transit opportunities will result in a per capita decrease in gas usage, Add to this further increases in fuel economy and the revenues realized from gas taxes will continue to go down, as they have since the \’70s.

    A gas tax is not a user fee. It is a tax on a commodity. You are paying the government for the privilege of buying the product. If you don\’t pay the tax, you can\’t buy the product. Believe me, you will find no support in Roseburg and Astoria for an increase in the gas tax in order to pay for pavement repairs in Portland.

    A bond issue is also a tax and the amount can be limited by statute or require a vote.

    A water/sewer bill, electric bill and a bridge toll are user fees. You are paying for a service or a product. If you can get by without the service or product, you don\’t have to pay. If you want an example of a user fee funded public utility, you have only to look at the Big Pipe CSO project. In the early \’90s, the nay sayers were predicting failure. Now, 15 years into the 20 year project, It\’s pretty much on time and within budget. Nobody liked the increased sewer fees but it has been a success. And no new entity was set up to collect the fees.

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  • BillD June 15, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Burr, #4,

    That\’s just the type of forward thinking we will need to get this issue handled. There will be a lot of moaning and groaning about fees to use the freeways etc. but in the end, if drivers want to use the facility, they will pay the fee.

    It used to be considered an eternal truth that no one would pay a meter to park on the east side. Now it\’s hard to find an empty space.

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  • VR June 16, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Congestion pricing is a good idea, if it is implemented across the entire metro area.

    Paying to enter the central city won\’t work in Portland. Businesses will just locate somewhere else.

    If we make it cost to enter downtown the stores and offices will just move to the suburbs. It is already hard enough since parking is \”free\”** in the suburbs but costs downtown.

    **free at the time of use, not free to society

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  • joe adamski June 16, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    Several things.. about 55% of each gas tax dollar collected in portland goes out to the state. a local gas tax would be 100% dedicated to portland. and it would be a user fee for motorists.
    congestion pricing,abolition of tire studs,any policy decision made has to be acceptable politically. Sam Adams, or any politioo knows that its easier to be right than be thought of as being right. Whatever solutions to be promoted must pass muster with a majority of the citizenry, or nothing will happen and a lot of effort will go for nothing.

    I personally believe Sam is correct in trying to find a politically acceptable solution to the long term problem of street maintainance. its not a \”sexy\” issue, but it also has been neglected by the Legislature for over 20 years, and the City for nearly as long. Past councillors have tried to make it happen,to no avail. As Gordon Price likes to point out,car drives spend 30k on a car and bitch about spending $100 to make the roads better. As cyclists, we rely on the City to provide safe and well maintained roads, at least until we manage a series of separated facilities. its in our best intererst to make sure good roads, WITH APPROPRIATE ACCOMODATIONS FOR CYCLISTS AND PEDS are funded. When PDOT isnt scrabbling up any money they can get to maintain roads, they will be better positioned to make sure bikes and peds and transit get theirs.
    We as cyclists would do well to support Adams in insureing road maintainance is funded. I know the favor will be returned.

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  • Michael June 18, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Tax the upper class! Additional 20% income tax on top 5%, going up to 50% for top 1% and 90% for top .1%. And a 1% per year tax on international wealth for the top 1%. Reinstate the estate tax at 50% for the top 1% of estates going up to 90% for the top .1%

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  • Lenny Anderson June 18, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I confess that I\’m a skeptic when it comes to more money for PDOT. While there is a lot of talk about \”maintenance first,\” it would be helpful to see exactly where and how the almost $200 million annual PDOT budget is spent.
    But if more $ is necessary, here is an option:
    Paid parking…currently the City gives away free one of its greatest assets, curbside parking, both residental and commercial. Only the Lloyd District has meters outside of Downtown, SoWa & the Pearl.
    A parking fee would be more palatable, if we could shift some of the CSO fees on our sewer bills to the actual sources…road runoff. Oil, gasoline and tire debris constitute a major portion of the contamination in the Willamette which ratepayers are now fixing to the tune of $1.4 Billion. The fix seems obvious….a tax on oil, tire and gasoline sales to cover some of the CSO bill. Reductions in those fees might ease the passage of a parking fee…say $1 per slot per month, so most residences would pay a couple of bucks a month, while Freddies would pay substantially more.
    Put it on our \”utility bill\” along with water, sewer, etc., and it would be hardly noticed when combined with the above shift to \”contamination fees.\” Luckily Sam is Commissioner for both BES and PDOT.

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  • BURR June 18, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Here\’s the biggest reason not to rely on the gas tax: the more fuel efficient cars become, the less gas tax revenue is generated.

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  • tonyt June 18, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Remember, a million hybrids on the road are still a million cars. We will need something that will continue to provide funds as gas mileages increase AND incentives that encourage multi-modal transportation. We should start with a combination of gas taxes and vehicle weight taxes and shift toward user taxes/fees.

    London\’s downtown access fee is apparently working great. New York is talking about adopting it.

    And if anyone out there is freakin out because we are actually talking about taxes, remember that we are already paying HUGE hidden taxes through among other things, our military budget that goes to secure our access to oil.

    We really are like an addict. We can\’t just talk about clean needles. We need to talk about gettin\’ off the junk.

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