WTF is up with the roads in this town? Who is in charge of this? Any plans to ever maybe get them fixed? —Pothole Peeved
I don't mean to give you a hard time, Peeved, but street repair (and how to pay for it) has been THE major controversy in local politics for at least three years. It's sort of like you just poked your head up to ask, "So, what's up with this Donald Trump guy?"
Anyway, the short answer is, we're shitty people who make bad choices and deserve lousy roads. The slightly longer answer is, everyone wants well-maintained streets, but nobody seems able to find a way to pay for them.
You may have heard some distant clamor about something called a "street fee" briefly drowning out the bubbling of your bong a couple years ago, but it was a political nonstarter. (Not so coincidentally, the two guys who came up with it, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick, are no longer in office.)
What about all the money the Bureau of Transportation gets from parking fees, parking tickets and the state gas tax? Unfortunately, that turns out to cover only about a third of the agency's budget.
We recently approved a city gas tax that will help. But the $16 million it will raise annually will mostly keep streets that need fixing (cheap) from deteriorating into streets that need replacing (expensive). In other words, it'll keep the $1.3 billion tab for getting all our streets to goal condition from getting any bigger, but it won't pay it down very fast.
If it's any consolation, lots of other cities are having the same problem. While there was a 2000 study that ranked our roads ninth-worst in the nation, these days we don't even crack the bottom 20. Near the worst in 2017? Cash-flush San Francisco. If it can't pay the paving bill, what hope does Portland have?
Perhaps Trump's vaunted trillion-dollar infrastructure package will contain help for our streets—as long as we send a tribute of 12 undocumented virgins every year, to prove we're over the "sanctuary city" thing.
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