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‘Fix Our Streets’ gas tax campaign prepares to launch Wednesday

Posted by on January 24th, 2016 at 12:20 pm

fix our streets

The new campaign logo.

After a long pause to gather its strategy and thoughts, Portland’s city council is expected to launch its latest plan Wednesday to raise money for the city’s streets.

The new concept, a public vote for a temporary local gas tax of 10 cents per gallon, comes endorsed by a 93-page report from the City Club of Portland and at least two mayoral candidates (Jules Bailey and Ted Wheeler) as the least bad way to slow the city’s deepening pavement problem while getting some high-priority safety improvements on the ground.

And in a new development, it looks as if some resources have been found for one of such a ballot issue’s biggest needs: an organized “yes” campaign.

If approved by voters on May 17, the tax would raise $16 million each of the next four years.

It’s not nearly enough to stop all the city’s roads from falling apart further; that’d require $50 million a year, according to the City Club. Nor is it enough to achieve the city’s “Vision Zero” to eliminate preventable traffic deaths.

But the campaign’s backers say it’s a start, one that would give the city a burst of new revenue that could address pressing problems like damaged pavement on Southeast Foster Road and Southwest 4th Avenue; missing sidewalks on Southwest Capitol Highway; car and bike traffic that mixes haphazardly downtown; and speeding traffic near schools like Lents Elementary and David Douglas High School.

Gas taxes are always a hard sell politically. But unlike other ways of raising money, a gas tax would let the city get some revenue out of people who use Portland’s streets without living here.

Because richer people tend to drive more than poorer people, backers say, a gas tax is also modestly progressive.

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Finally, the gas tax proposal comes after a long and lasting drop in the actual price of gas.

In Oregon, the average gas price is down more than $1 since winter 2014. For context: It’s actually fallen by 10 cents, the amount of the proposed tax, in the last 10 days.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.45.18 AM

You can read the city’s full description of how it would spend the gas tax on this PDF that auto-downloads from its website.

In an interview Saturday, Fix Our Streets campaign manager Aaron Brown said he thinks the campaign will appeal to a wide number of local institutions.

“I don’t want to speak ahead of other organizations that wish to come out and make their own announcements about this, but I am optimistic that this is a proposal that a variety of organizations with different interests in Portland can and will get excited about,” Brown said.

Brown said he couldn’t yet share details about the funding of the Fix Our Streets campaign but that “we’ll have a full release about where the money’s coming from and that sort of stuff on Wednesday.”

Brown, who also serves as the president of the board of Oregon Walks, also said that to pass, the campaign will need a lot of volunteer support.

“This is it,” said Brown. “We’re going to vote on it, May 2016. Everyone who has ever sat around thinking about how great it would be that they had a chance to tell elected officials how they deeply care about road safety and maintenance and show that they care about investing in their infrastructure, should save May 17, 2016, as the day they need to get their ballots in, and should prepare to help out with the campaign.”

He hopes people will be able to show up to city council on Wednesday to support a council vote to refer the issue to the ballot.

“If you’re interested in providing electoral support for livable streets in Portland, we need you Wednesday at 2 o’clock,” Brown said.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Adam
Subscriber

Let’s just hope “fix our streets” means redesigning to put people first and eliminate traffic violence, instead of making pavement smoother for easier motoring.

Mike Quiglery
Guest
Mike Quiglery

I wonder how much gas is sold inside city limits? Tax should be county-wide (including Clackamas and Washington). Plus, an excise tax on parking. Upping fines for speeding, distracted driving, etc., would be nice too. Heck, by simply enforcing existing laws would go a long way toward paying for street improvements.

BeavertonRider
Guest
BeavertonRider

Sorry, but PBOT does not need even more money. If PBOT would stop wasting dollars on equity and diversity nonsense, marketing nonsense, etc., etc., etc. PBOT has tons of case that it wastes on outside consultants that do work the department has people already on staff to do.

Just like education, just like welfare, enlarging the government’s wallet will not fix the problems. It fact, it almost always makes the problem worse.

Random
Guest
Random

“Finally, the gas tax proposal comes after a long and lasting drop in the actual price of gas.

In Oregon, the average gas price is down more than $1 since winter 2014. It’s actually fallen by 10 cents, the amount of the proposed tax in the last 10 days.”

“Lasting” – i.e. gas prices have been lower than usual for all of a year and a half.

I’d stay away from that argument – I don’t think that a lot of people out there (including the backers of the initiative) think that gas prices are going to stay low indefinitely – unless you are proposing to get rid of the gas tax if gas prices go back up.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Taxes are comically rarely temporary. When the city realizes that no street in the city should have a greater speed than 25, I am all for it. We know that won’t happen… But how about putting usable lanes on every street downtown? Let’s start there. How about let’s remove any lane in the city greater than 3 on a street and make it just for bikes and runners/walkers? Let’s start there.

Any city that has a mural painted praising bikes framed by two racing one ways seems a bit hypocritical.

underneath the streets
Guest
underneath the streets

A had tax disproportionately targets the poor, who mostly drive ourselves to workplaces to make their boss rich, to the grocery store to repair our tied bodies, to bring the future workforce to schools and daycares. The transportation infrastructure mostly serves industry, offering routes to commuters. The trucks which deliver profitable goods disproportionately induce wear and tear on the streets.

The repair of our failing infrastructure, subjected to insufficient budgets by neoliberal technocrats, should not be on the shoulders of the exploited, but from the profits they create.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

With the price of oil per barrel so low right now it is also a prime time to get road resurfacing and rip-up-and-replace projects started.

Asphalt is wholly a petroleum waste product from the refinery process of cracking and distillation of crude oil. In the 2005 oil spike refineries increased gasoline production over asphalt and applied more advanced techniques to extract more diesel & gasoline from the asphalt waste. The spike in asphalt costs caused most state DOT budgets to go bankrupt far earlier than ever seen.

When the price of oil goes back up, and it very certainly will, asphalt and thus road construction costs will mirror the increased cost of asphalt.
It is low now and this may be the lowest it will be ever. Eventually concrete will be directly cost competitive; it too has big environmental downsides.

Now may be the least painful time to get this done.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I just love how people insist that any department that looks to get funds must suddenly achieve perfection, otherwise the funds should be withheld. Of course, if PBoT was indeed perfect, then we shouldn’t fund it because they seem to be managing just fine.

Gas is cheaper now than it has ever been in my adult life (a long time, I assure you), in real dollars. Our roads, and many other government-provided goods and services, have limped along for as long as possible in the face of a four-decade tax revolt that has unfunded government. Taxes are the price of admission to civilization. I’m tired of the cheap carnival version, I want the Disneyland version. Time for an increase in the price of a ticket.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Raise it a dollar state wide. People might occupy gas stations.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

Hales and Novick wasted 4 years pushing the homeowner fee for roads. The gas tax is the easiest collect and the lowest administrative cost. The original proposed fee on homeowners, was going to raise the cost of housing, which has it’s own problems and doesn’t need any help.
Don’t want to pay the gas tax? there’s plenty of alternatives. If the price of gas is a make or break for your lifestyle choices, you have bigger problems than just the price of gas.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

I almost forgot, Why fix the roads without addressing the studded tire issue. It’s time for a Snow-park type permit $100-$200 per year, so everyone who lives outside the city can pay for coming to Portland and damaging OUR roads and there’s a way for them to help fix them.
Would a Snow Park permit system be legal? I’m not sure but their legal on Mt. Hood, there’s no reason it couldn’t work in Portland. If your going to address the road maintenance problem- EVERYTHING should be on the table.
I’m done.

Erin M
Guest
Erin M

Is there (recent) data supporting that the rich drive more? I support the gas tax hike, but I’d be careful about calling it a progressive tax. Because housing prices are so high in the central city, lower income people get pushed to the outskirts and the burbs and often have to drive much long distances to commute (if they have a car of course).

Matthew B.
Guest
Matthew B.

While I support increasing city, county, state and federal gas taxes to boost revenue, I will not be voting yes on any ballot initiatives until there is a comprehensive tax reform proposal that covers all local and state taxes and is designed to ensure equity for all taxpayers. At this stage the property tax is so iniquitous, I cannot lend my support to any other tax proposals.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I’m curious about where this idea that Portland’s roads are tragically falling apart.

I get annoyed sometimes when I see potholes in our roads, but traveling to many other places in the US, we have much better roads in comparison. We’re also currently seeing paving projects around the city. Is this an issue of people just not getting out and seeing what other city’s roads actually look like?

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

I wish there was a commissioner in charge of PBOT other than the person currently running it. That makes me reluctant to vote for this.

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Some here view the gas tax as a deterrent, or perhaps penalty, for driving.
Not spending the money on roads is a better deterrent.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I will definitely support the proposed gas tax, though I predict it will lose by a margin of 85 percent to 15 percent.

As many have pointed out, the federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. The state tax has only been raised once (by 6 cents per gallon) since 1993. Meanwhile, the construction costs have gone up by 70 percent since 1993.

It would be far better if the tax increase occurred at the federal or state levels and if it had been indexed to inflation. That would have resulted in about 1 or 2 cents per gallon every year for the last 23 years. Ten cents per gallon (even if justified) will generate too much opposition because people who are unable to perform basic arithmetic think it will cost them hundreds of dollars per year.

I agree there are equity issues with the multiple tax systems we have in place. I urge those who are upset with the overall tax system reconsider and support this tax as the best we can do at this time.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Pay per mile is a better solution. Allows charging to take into account vehicle weight, driving location, time of day, and owner income level. You can tweak the model to selectively reduce VMT by location to improve congestion , improve safety by charging more on transit corridors and greeways, and help the disadvantaged. This is the approach that California is currently testing, and the direction they are going.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I’d look into requiring trucks to have a permit to drive in the city limits (probably excluding the interstates). Daily or annual passes available, price tied to weight of the vehicle when loaded.

soren
Guest
soren

“backers say, a gas tax is also modestly progressive.”

From the city club report that endorses the temporary local gas tax:

In other words, a gas tax is regressive…A $5 per month household fee would be equivalent to a 20 cent per gallon gas tax for the lowest quintile income households, but equivalent to a 5 cent per gallon gas tax for the highest quintile.

And the citation refers to national data. In portland the highest income quintile is more affluent than in the US overall. The proposed gas tax is not mildly progressive but sharply regressive.