Thursday, September 13, 2007

Portland...Safe and Sound?

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams and the Portland Department of Transportation are rolling out an ambitious capital projects plan and possible gas tax increase for the city of Portland. I have to admit that I am not an expert on city planning, and I do definitely have some serious concerns about the recent prioritizing of the streetcar and tram system. However, I don't see any project on this list that doesn't need to be addressed. I haven't learned enough about this yet to render a very educated opinion, but I wanted to put it out there so that people would be aware of the plans and weigh in.
Here are some facts put out by the city, and some of the reasons for our current state, from the perspective of the City:

378 lives have been lost and 2,662 people seriously injured (1996-2005) on Portland’s streets

Economic impact of traffic-related injuries and deaths is $400 million per year

32% of Portland’s busiest streets and 22% of City-owned bridges are in poor condition

The Sellwood Bridge has a sufficiency rating of only 2 on a scale of 100 – due to cracks in the
bridge, its weight limit has been reduced from 32 tons to 10 tons, creating diverted and longer trips for buses and trucks

The 30 deficient weight-limited bridges negatively impact business – they impede the efficient movement of freight by adding costly detours and delays to truck trips

58% of Portland adults limit walking, biking, or taking transit due to traffic safety concerns

Kids walking or biking to school has declined from 66% in the 1970s to 10% today

40% of all congestion in the city is non-recurring and primarily caused by crashes

Maintenance backlog grows by $9 million per year – every dollar spent on preventive maintenance now will save $4-5 in future reconstruction costs

Reasons per the city of Portland:

Since 1993, the cost for materials to repair our streets and bridges has increased by 70%. One dollar in 1993 equals 58¢ in today’s market.

The Portland region receives only 46¢ back for every dollar we send to Salem in gas tax and vehicle registration fees

Oregon’s gas tax is 24¢ per gallon. A fixed amount fails to provide any increase to cover inflation.

There has been no increase in the 24¢ per gallon state gas tax since 1993.

Given what I understand of how revenue expenditures work in Oregon, I can understand the need for an increase in the gas tax (It's been 14 years!).
Here is a broad list of what the city is proposing to do:

Safety improvements at high crash intersections

Identify and improve safe routes to schools

Add safe crossings near transit, businesses, and parks

Create family-friendly travel routes (bicycle and pedestrian boulevards)

Add sidewalks to busy streets

Provide funding for safety improvements

Increase enforcement of reckless driving on highways

Improve major arterials in poor condition

Improve bridges in poor condition

Improve signal timing and operations

Equitably and efficiently allocate projects across the city

There are numerous open houses planned around the city for citizens to share their views and thoughts. I highly recommend getting involved with this one. The proposed gas tax increase would bring in $263,097,987 in additional revenue to fund these projects. That's a hefty chunk of change to not get your say in.<strong>

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