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Just The Facts

County Roads and Road Funding

Clackamas County owns and maintains 1,400 miles of roads (the distance from here to Mexico) and 180 bridges. The County is solely responsible for the maintenance of these facilities, including filling potholes, paving, trimming vegetation, clearing ditches, sweeping street, striping, installing and maintaining traffic signs and signals, plowing and sanding, and other repairs.  Listed below are questions and answers on a variety of road maintenance and funding issues.  This list was last updated February 28, 2014, and is updated regularly, so check back for new information.

What do residents of Clackamas County think about their roads and road funding?

The County conducted a Community Survey of a random sample of county residents in early 2014.  Several of the questions on the survey were about transportation and funding road maintenance.  In general, most people think their roads are in good condition and are not interested in paying more fees or taxes to help pay for road maintenance.  The survey details are available here; an overview of the responses to the transportation questions is on pages 14-17.

Where does Clackamas County get the money to maintain its roads?

  • State and federal gasoline taxes,
  • State vehicle registration and title fees,
  • State weight-mile taxes paid by heavy trucks.

Why doesn't Clackamas County use property taxes to help maintain the roads?

road repairsState law forbids counties and cities from using General Fund property tax revenue for road or bridge maintenance or operations. (The only exception, approved by the state, is Washington County.)

Since maintaining roads and bridges is important and often near the top of the list of public concerns, why doesn't the County cut spending elsewhere to cover these costs?

Most of the County General Fund revenue is funded through revenue from property taxes. Since state law does not allow the County to use property taxes for roads, it is not legal for the County to cut programs funded by property taxes and use that money for road maintenance. 

How do other counties pay for road maintenance?

In addition to the state and federal revenue mentioned above, our neighboring counties have local sources of revenue to maintain roads.

 Local Property Tax levyLocal Gas TaxLocal Road DistrictCounty VRF
Washington County
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Multnomah County
No
Yes
No
Yes
Clackamas County
No
No
No
No

Washington County has:

  • Voter-approved levy that allows property taxes to be used for roads,
  • Road maintenance district,
  • One-cent-per-gallon county gas tax that provides ongoing revenue for road maintenance,
  • State authorization to use General Fund property tax revenue.

Multnomah County has:

  • Three-cent-per-gallon county gas tax to help pay for road maintenance, 
  • County vehicle registration fee approved by voters to replace the Sellwood Bridge. 

Clackamas County has: NO LOCAL REVENUE

Has Clackamas County always been short on road maintenance funds?

Like many Oregon counties, Clackamas County for many years used federal “timber revenues” to help cover road maintenance costs. Due to federal cutbacks, timber funds have diminished over the years and will soon be gone. In 1988-89, Clackamas County received 24% of its total road fund revenues ($5 million at that time) in timber receipts; in 2012-13, that percentage was down to 2%.

What is the current state of road maintenance funding in Clackamas County?

  • There is not enough money to continue current maintenance levels and make repairs.
  • 54% of County roads are in fair or poor condition based on the Pavement Quality Index (PQI). The more our roads deteriorate, the more expensive it is to repair them.
  • The current gap between the amount of available federal and state revenue and maintenance needs is about $17 million -- and growing each year.

What is the current condition of County roads?

Chart Condition; Needed Maintenance
Excellent: Smooth roadway; slurry seal
Good: Minor to medium cracks in top layer of roadway (asphalt); 1" overlay
Fair: Major cracking in asphalt and aggregate base; 2"-3" overlay
Poor: Major damage to asphalt and subgrade; road reconstruction

Why is it important to keep roads in good to excellent condition?

  • Safety -- for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. A smooth roadway with good sightlines and appropriate shoulders, curbs and/or stripes is a safer road for everyone who uses it.
  • Cost -- The more repair a road needs, the higher the cost to return it to good condition.
    • $22,000/mile — to maintain a road in very good to excellent condition
    • $44,000/mile — to maintain a road in good condition
    • $176,000/mile — to maintain a road in fair condition
    • $440,000/mile — to reconstruct a road in very poor to fair condition

Has Clackamas County asked voters for money for roads in the past?  If so, what were the results?

Three measures to increase road funding have been taken to voters in recent years:

  • November 1997: County-wide vehicle registration fee of $15/vehicle/year ending no later than July 1, 2007 -- failed 74% to 26%
  • November 1997: County-wide gas tax of 3 cents/gallon phased in over three years, ending in 2007 -- failed 66% to 34%
  • November 2003: Road system maintenance fee of an average of $2.17/single family home for unincorporated areas of the County and in any city that chooses to participate -- failed 68% to 32%

How many County bridges are unsafe to cross?

All County bridges are safe to cross. The few that are not safe for very heavy loads are weight-limited with signs that inform drivers about the maximum weight allowed on the bridge.

What road classifications would not be included in a future paving program?

Roads that are not county-maintained roads, such as private roads, are not included in county paving programs.

What process would a developer have to go through to build a substandard road?

There is no such process.  The County does not permit developers to build substandard roads.

Why isn't the County considering raising the weight-mile tax to get more revenue?

The County does not have the authority to change the weight-mile tax.  The weight-mile tax is set by the state; the revenue received from it goes into the state road fund that is then distributed to the state, counties and cities.

Why isn't the County considering a studded tire tax to raise more money?

The County does not have the authority to establish a studded tire tax.  In fact, in January 2014 the Oregon Department of Transportation began a new study on the use and impact of studded tires in Oregon.  The final report, expected in fall 2014, will identify current use and damage, and help state policy makers account for changes in the technology and consumer choices that have occurred since the year 2000 when the last study was done.

Is the vehicle registration fee the only local funding source that the County is required to share with the cities?

Yes.

If someone has a road maintenance problem, who do they call?

For non-emergency problems, they are encouraged to call the Clackamas County Pothole Hotline at 503-650-3262.

Can residents call the County to ask for brushing and trimming along roadways?

Yes, we appreciate the assistance of the public to help identify County roadways that need vegetation to be brushed or trimmed to improve safety and site distance.  Please call the Clackamas County Pothole Hotline at 503-650-3262.

Can the County regulate where school buses go to keep them off roads where they might do damage because of their weight?

The County has no authority to regulate where school buses travel unless a street or bridge has a posted weight limit and the bus exceeds that weight limit.

     

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