A report published by the League of Oregon Cities details the increasing difficulties faced by cities around the state to fund and repair roads.
From the Register-Guard:
From Portland to Ashland, in communities large and small, a lack of money is making it difficult for many cities to maintain streets, according to the League of Oregon Cities.
"Cities do not have adequate resources to conduct proper street maintenance and preservation, but have to triage, choosing what emergency road treatments to provide while watching overall city road conditions slide," according to a report by the association.
The trend began to appear in the 1990s, when voters passed statewide property tax limit Measures 5 and 50, the league said in its report titled "City Streets: Investing in a Neglected Asset."
Cities reacted by shifting money away from roads and toward core services of police and fire, the report said.
Oregon cities now rely on state and local gas taxes to fund road repairs, but these sources are falling short:
Most cities rely on the state gas tax for road repairs, but the 24-cents-a-gallon state levy has not been increased since 1993.
As a result, the amount of the annual tax collected has dropped from $45 per person in 2000 to less than $40 now, the league said.
Some cities, including Eugene and Springfield, have passed local gas taxes to help pay for streets.
The league said Springfield's 3-cents-a-gallon gas tax in 2003 allowed the city's road fund to avoid financial "insolvency."
At current levels, "Springfield can continue modest (street) preservation efforts," the league's report said. But "the street fund will again reach a perilous state in about three years. At that point, the city must identify alternative local revenue sources," such as raising the local gas tax or imposing another tax.
Small towns and rural areas are especially struggling:
Local gas taxes have helped larger cities, but don't help tiny communities because they can't raise substantial amounts, the league said.
In Lowell, a town of 955 residents southeast of Eugene, most of the streets are "at a critical point, needing repaving," the report said.
Last year, Lowell's shares of the state gas tax amounted only to $44,152 in state road funds.
Lane County used to give Lowell road fund money every year - the most recent annual amount was $67,000.
But the county this year eliminated that aid.
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