The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently issued a report describing the deteriorating condition of Oregon highways. The authors estimate that the cumulative cost to the state economy from poor roads will be $94 billion by 2035.

At the same time, the Portland City Council is considering a new local income tax to pay for road maintenance and safety, citing a lack of adequate funding.

While road maintenance is indeed a problem throughout Oregon, the public is unlikely to approve new road taxes. The primary reason is a lack of trust. During the past 15 years, Portland has squandered vast amounts of money on fads like streetcars, light rail, bioswales, and “road diets.” At the state level, ODOT spent nearly two decades and $180 million on a silly bridge-with-light-rail proposal to Vancouver, Washington that is now dead.

These projects were mostly aimed at getting people “out of their cars.” Yet the reality is, regardless of how people travel, more than 99% of all trips take place on a road. So road maintenance needs to be the top priority with existing transportation dollars.

New methods to pay for transportation infrastructure will eventually be needed, but politicians need to re-earn the public’s trust before that can happen.

4 thoughts on “Scare Tactics Not Working in Road Tax Debates

  1. The legislature will be asked to raise the gas tax this session, for both maintenance and new capacity. If passed, the money would benefit not only Washington County (where the road fee recently failed) and Portland (where the tax is in heated debate), but road users throughout the state. It’s bothered me that neither entity has been transparent about the fact that not only would they get the fees/taxes they are talking about, but also this additional funding from the state.

    Portland has been more open about it than Washington County. Trust is an issue. It’s just plain wrong to be lobbying through the Oregon Transportation Forum for increases you don’t mention to the public.

  2. The $150 million Governor Kitzhaber spent on the CRC should have spent on road maintence. Why do Democrats always have the wrong priorities and why do we
    keep electing them?

  3. We don’t need new taxes. We need to quit squandering our precious resources on debt service for light rail that no one rides.

  4. Until they promise to make a connection from I5 to 99W, no more money. Too much wasted money going into Metro pet projects.

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