After dismissing it as too unpopular to even merit discussion prior to his last (failed) attempt to raise new revenue for transportation infrastructure, Commissioner Steve Novick now plans to put a 10-cent gas tax on the May 2016 ballot.
After a discussion about the proposal with community leaders today, Novick’s office sent out a press release exclaiming that, “Momentum builds for Portland gas tax to fund street repair and traffic safety.”
And in a marked departure from he and Mayor Charlie Hales’ previous strategy, Novick is not shying away from the “b” word (bikes).
Why has Novick shifted his thinking on the gas tax issue? Because he’s now heard support for the idea from many influential places including: a recent report by the City Club of Portland, a letter he received from the Portland Business Alliance, support from Mayor Charlie Hales and his primary opponent Ted Wheeler, the editorial boards of both the Portland Tribune and The Oregonian, and a recent survey showing that members of the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods picked a local gas tax as the most popular way to fund transportation.
And then there’s this:
Now, a new scientific survey of 400 Portland voters shows that voters support a ten cents per gallon, four year gas tax for street repair and traffic safety by a margin of 55% to 37%. The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners September 24-28, 2015.
Novick’s plan is to ask voters to support a four-year, 10-cent gas tax that would raise $58 million in new revenue.
In his press release today Novick included supportive statements from veteran east Portland transportation activist David Hampsten.
More notably, in a direct shift from he and Hales’ previous strategy to not mention cycling at all around talks of new revenue, Novick has included a comment from Bicycle Transportation Alliance leader Rob Sadowsky in his statement. “Not only do we need well-maintained roads, but also we will need to continue to invest in low-cost improvements that add capacity for transit, walking and biking,” Sadowsky said in support of Novick’s plan.
Novick has also released a detailed list of projects that would be funded over the next four years with the new gas tax revenue. Here’s the general breakdown:
If you’re keeping track that adds up to $32.5 million for paving projects and about $25.5 million for biking, walking, and safety projects. But also keep in mind that the Bureau of Transportation often uses paving projects as an opportunity to re-stripe roads in a way that’s safer and improves access for bicycling and walking.
Read Novick’s full statement and see which specific projects will be funded via this PDF.
We’ll have much more coverage and analysis of this to come. Stay tuned.