Portland, Ore., needs $2 billion of infrastructure upgrades over next decade to catch up with deferred street maintenance, civic group says.

DALLAS -- Portland, Ore., needs $2 billion of additional transportation funding over the next decade to make up for years of neglected street maintenance that has left most of the city's roads in poor or very poor condition, according to a report released last week by a volunteer civic organization.

The "End the Funding Gridlock" report from the City Club of Portland recommends a variety of revenue options, including a city gasoline tax, higher parking fees, and a commuter tax, to generate the $205 million per year needed to restore the streets that have already deteriorated and prevent others from falling into disrepair.

"The money must come from multiple sources because there is no plausible federal or state revenue stream large enough to fill Portland's need, none of the potential local funding mechanisms alone can fill the hole, and there is not enough money in the general fund to cover all costs," the report said.

Portland's current budget allocates $20 million for street maintenance in fiscal 2016. The total budget of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which oversees the streets and parking operations, is about $300 million per year.

The city has neglected its streets while focusing on larger projects, such as the replacement of the Smallwood Bridge over the Willamette River, said Portland Commissioner Steve Novik.

"The numbers are scary," he said. "What we can't do is let the numbers paralyze us. We've got to start somewhere."

Local gasoline taxes ranging from 1 cent to 5 cents per gallon have been implemented by 22 Oregon counties and cities, 30 have levied annual or monthly transportation utility fees, and two cities have done both, the report said.

The City Club report said a city tax of 3 cents per gallon on gasoline and diesel could generate $15 million to $24 million a year, which by state law would be dedicated to streets. Voters would have to approve the local fuel taxes.

Other options included in the report include more tolling, overnight parking permits for residents, and higher rates on the city's parking meters.

The city should not wait until after the 2016 elections to begin working on transportation funding, said Jennifer Rollins, who chaired the club's nine-member transportation funding committee.

"To save current and future taxpayers from staggering expense, Portland must act swiftly to contain and reverse ballooning street maintenance costs," Rollins said. "No one funding source will raise enough money for maintenance and safety."

Preventive maintenance on streets in good condition costs about $10,000 per lane-mile per year, the report said, while bringing neglected streets into good condition can cost as much as $2 million per lane-mile.

Delay is not an option, said Kristin Eberhard, a member of the panel that wrote the report.

"Portland has neglected its streets for so long that we are past the point of low-cost preventive care and now require an urgent and expensive intervention," she said.

The city should dedicate at least half of any current and future budget surplus to street projects and lobby the state for the authority to levy registration fees based on vehicle weight and value, the report recommends.

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