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Storm strains Transportation Bureau’s budget

Posted by on December 22nd, 2008 at 9:32 pm

scenes from Sunday (12-21)-4

One of the worst storms in Portland
history is yet another strain on
the City budget.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Already on a downward slope due to a dwindling gas tax and lower parking revenues, and facing millions in necessary cutbacks, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is now feeling the hurt due to the severe storm that refuses to relinquish its grip.

In their daily storm conditions and report update published this morning, PBOT wrote that their annual budget includes one million dollars in “contingency for any type of emergency response”. The statement goes on to say,

“Budget impact for severe or prolonged events can be significant. It can more than double the City’s normal operating expenditures for a day. With this current severe winter weather event… Transportation will certainly exceed that budget.”

PBOT’s primary source of discretionary operating revenue, the State Highway Trust Fund (which is funded by a gas tax, registration and title fees, etc…) no longer provides the revenue it once did.

Adding to the gloomy outlook at PBOT is the $422 million maintenance backlog and another half-billion in deferred road maintenance.

Expressing the dire nature of the funding situation, PBOT writes:

“This backlog will continue to grow and have a serious impact on Portland’s transportation system until we are successful in securing new and sustainable funding sources for our maintenance operations and safety programs.”

What will that “new and sustainable” funding source be? Mayor-elect Adams’ defunct “Safe, Sound, and Green Streets” proposal would have helped. Perhaps we’ll see something like that pop up again this spring.

In the meantime, the Storm of 2008 isn’t over yet

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  • jim December 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    They need to quit paying $7.00 a gallon for biodiesel

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  • Tom December 23, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Um, they’re actually working? Could have fooled me by the sorry state all of NW Portland is in. Hell, you can’t even really get into the ER at Good Sam. Not that is important or anything.

    Yes, I know, it’s a big city, with lots of roads. Maybe they should be thinking of “when” rather than “if” snow/ice hits the metro area. Better to be prepared!

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  • Jeff Bernards December 23, 2008 at 8:18 am

    ODOT & PBOT claim the gas tax isn’t keeping up with maintenance costs, It’s obvious we need to raise the gas tax more than 2 cents. Sam’s Safe Streets program taxed residential water bills, that has nothing to do with reducing our dependence on oil and cars. Make the gas tax a “User Tax” the more you use the more you pay, they had no problem making hikers buy a NW Forest pass to walk in the woods. It’s time that automobiles paid their way, not just the gas and insurance costs, but the roads & maintenance costs too.

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  • ethan December 23, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Everyone keeps calling this one of the “worst storms.” It seems to me like one of the “best storms.”

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  • Racer X December 23, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Perhaps local public works agencies should for the most part stop plowing the roads (seems to due little) and instead focus on the downtown sidewalks and transit stops.

    All the half cleared roads do is give most drivers a false sense of security (and thus speed) which endangers pedestrians (who have to walk in the street due to property owners not clearing the sidewalks).

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  • Burk December 23, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I’m with Ethan 🙂

    When I lived in Juneau, Alaska they would pay private citizens to plow the roads. These guys couldn’t wait to clear the streets at the first sign of snow, it could dump 2 feet over night but by morning the roads were all plowed.

    For many it was a hobby and there was kind of a redneck competition on who could plow the most and who had the best “plow truck”. Maybe Portland could try something similar? Maybe a tax subsidy to those that are willing to plow in case of a snow event? It seems crazy to pay all this money when the guy with the dually quad cab with the 36 inch lift would probably do it for free. Think Mr. Plow and Plow King 🙂

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  • cold worker December 24, 2008 at 1:58 am

    i’m not sure where this money would head, but i’ve never been anywhere that is as laid back on parking rules as portland. specifically what i’m thinking of is people who park facing the wrong way of traffic. maybe this isn’t illegal? ticketing for this would surely boost revenue (for a while till everyone got their shit together). maybe this is just my pet peeve?

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  • El Biciclero December 24, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Shouldn’t less gas tax revenue mean less driving and hence, less wear and tear on the roads and less maintenance to be done? Or does the gas tax not truly reflect the per-user cost of driving around on the roads? Hmmm…

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  • Aaron December 24, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I’m with Racer X
    When living in New York the plows would take care of the streets but push all the snow against the sidewalks creating a mini-mountain at every curb. I hear that’s what’s happening in east county Portland now.
    The car-addicts seem to still be able to get out with no plows in my neighborhood.

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  • E December 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Wrong way parking is not illegal in Portland.

    Problem is the gas tax is per gallon and not per dollar. Gallon usage is going down while dollars stay the same or go up. Increased gas tax may impact usage but clearly not enough to actually reduce road damage.

    And as far as investment in equipment and infrastructure to manage a storm of this magnitude – like they do in cities that get this weather every year – I believe that’s a poor use of city funds. We won’t get another storm like this for 50 years. If we stock up on snowplows and train people, it will all have to be done over again repeatedly before it ever gets called into action. The inconvenience caused by the storm doesn’t justify the expense. It would be cool if we could do like they do in Juneau, but would people really do it?? would ANYONE buy a plow attachment for their truck on the off chance they might use it in their lifetime? Doesn’t seem likely to me.

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