April 10th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Transportation

Survey Shows Cracks in Public Support for $12-a-Month Street Fee

UPDATE: Adding businesses to fee system could raise $52 million a year.

news1c_3917Northeast Marine Drive is slated for crack fixes. - IMAGE: V. Kapoor

A phone survey ordered by City Commissioner Steve Novick shows weak support for an $8-a-month or $12-a-month “street maintenance and safety” fee, with as many as 50 percent of voters opposed.

The survey found only 44 percent of voters supported a street fee of $12 a month per Portland household. But that number rose to 51 percent once pollsters explained what the fee would fund: road maintenance and pedestrian safety construction projects.

The numbers were only a little better for the $8-a-month option. It initially received support from 47 percent of voters, but support rose to 52 percent after the explanation.

A $12-a-month fee ($144 a year) on Portland’s roughly 250,000 households could bring in $36 million annually for street paving and building sidewalks, though PBOT officials say discounts mean it would only bring in $25 to $35 million.

Releasing the survey results at a City Hall press conference today, Novick tried to accentuate the positive.

“It’s clear that Portlanders are more likely to support a street fee when they learn more about what it could pay for,” Novick said in a statement.

“Street maintenance and safety continue to be top priorities for Portland residents," he continued, "and they will be at the top of the list of any funding package we put before council in the coming months. Congress isn’t coming to the rescue any time soon, so we here in Portland have to take control of our own destiny."

But he may not ask voters to control the process: Both Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales have said they haven't decided whether to place a fee on the ballot, or simply pass it without a public vote.

UPDATE, 3:30 pm: PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera tells WW the transportation bureau has adjusted its figures—and plans to seek an equal fee from businesses.

That means the fee could raise as much as $52 million a year for PBOT.

Rivera writes:

Making certain assumptions about compliance rates and discounts (such as low-income discounts) we might include, the $8 fee could raise $17 million from households (and we would plan to raise an equivalent amount from businesses) and the $12 fee could raise about $25-$26 million (and we would plan to raise an equivalent amount from businesses). So the total could be between $34 and $52 million.
 
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