County Vehicle Registration Fee: Investing in safety, relieving congestion on Clackamas County roads

Vehicle registration fee approved by Clackamas County Board to increase safety, relieve congestion, maintain local roads

After years of analysis and discussions about potential funding sources with the community, businesses and cities in the county, the Board of County Commissioners approved a countywide vehicle registration fee (VRF).

The county will use the revenue to improve safety, relieve congestion and maintain local roads (generally those low-traffic roads used by people to get from their residence to a more major road). 

The county will be establishing a committee to advise staff and the Board of Commissioners on capital projects, and will also hold meetings in various places around the county to talk about what transportation projects are of highest priority to residents and businesses.

Press release | Feb. 7 public hearing | Feb. 21 public hearing

The fee is $30 per year, or $2.50 per month, for most passenger vehicle owners, and $15 per year for motorcycles.

Please check the list of questions below to link to more information about the VRF and how it will benefit all county residents.  If you have a question that isn’t here, or if you’re interested in serving on the advisory committee or participating in a community/business meeting, let us know.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who will be required to pay this Vehicle Registration Fee and when will it have to be paid?

Specifically, this $30 fee will be paid by Clackamas County residents when they register their car, pick-up truck, van or other passenger vehicle or motorcycle.

The vehicle registration fee will be collected by the state Driver and Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) Division, in conjunction with state registration fees, starting in late 2019 or 2020.

What vehicles are exempt?

In accordance with state law, the fee does not apply to the following vehicles owned by Clackamas County residents:

  • Registered farm vehicles
  • Travel trailers, campers and motor homes
  • Heavy trucks (which pay state weight-mile taxes)
  • Snowmobiles and Class I all-terrain vehicles
  • Fixed-load vehicles
  • Vehicles registered permanently to disabled veterans or former prisoners of war
  • Vehicles registered permanently as antique vehicles or as vehicles of special interest
  • Government-owned or operated vehicles including school buses or school activity vehicles, and law enforcement undercover vehicles

How much money will this raise?

Total revenue will be approximately $11 million per year.  In accordance with state law and an agreement between the county and cities in the county, the money will be distributed as follows:

  • 40% will go to cities in the county, based on population
  • 50% will go to the county
  • 10% will be directed into a strategic investment fund for the county and cities to fund multi-jurisdictional projects

Estimated Annual Revenue by Jurisdiction

City

Population
(July 1, 2017)
Annual Revenue*
Lake Oswego** 34,855 $703,222
Oregon City 34,240 $690,807
West Linn 25,615 $516,794
Wilsonville** 21,260 $428,938
Milwaukie 20,510 $413,798
Happy Valley 18,680 $376,877
Canby 16,420 $331,281
Gladstone 11,660 $235,246
Sandy 10,655 $214,969
Damascus*** 10,625 $214,364
Molalla 9,085 $183,294
Estacada 3,155 $63,654
Tualatin** 2,911 $58,741
Portland** 766 $15,455
Johnson City 565 $11,399
Rivergrove** 459 $9,253
Barlow 135 $2,724
County 412,672 $5,588,520
Strategic Investment Fund --- $1,117,704

*Based on population, per state law
**Part of this city is outside Clackamas County
***Per state law, funds that would have gone to the former city go to the county for 10 years

What will the county use the money for?

  • Local road maintenance ($1 million/year)
    Resurfacing urban and rural local roads – the county-owned roads that people generally use to get from their residence to a major road – has not been priority due to the low volume of traffic on these roads. With an extra $1 million a year, we’ll be able to pave 2-3 miles of urban local roads or 3-4 miles of rural local roads.
  • Congestion relief ($3.5-4 million/year)
    Helping traffic to flow more smoothly and reliably will benefit everyone. High priority projects were identified several years ago through an extensive public process and have been in our Transportation System Plan (TSP) ever since.  With a high reliance on grants from other agencies with other priorities, the VRF will provide funding for urban and rural projects that align with our local priorities.
  • Safety improvements ($500,000/year)
    Many safety projects can be implemented at a relatively low cost (road shoulders and warning signs) to make roads safer for all travelers in both urban and rural areas.
    There are many ways to improve safety on roads, including those listed below.  The list also includes a very general estimated cost for the project (this can vary considerably depending on geography and other factors), crash reduction as a result of comparable projects and examples where such improvements have been made in Clackamas County.

Safety Improvement Examples

Measure Estimated cost Crash reduction Example
Adding all-way stop-control signs with flashers in rural areas $70,000 per installation 60% Canby-Marquam/Lone Elder
Widening road shoulders in rural areas $100,000 per mile 50% rural collector/arterials such as Beavercreek Road, Springwater Road, Eagle Creek Road, Barlow Trail Road, Canby-Marquam Highway, Meridian Road, Kelso Road, Welches Road
Installing curve warning signs $9,000 per mile 16% reduction in run-off-road crashes with injuries Feyrer Park Road, Borland Road, Wright Road, Lower Highland Road, Kropf Road
Installing intersection warning signs in rural areas $2,000 per installation 25% Beavercreek/Union Mills, Bradley/Holcomb, Haines/Territorial
Installing guardrail $30,000–50,000 per installation depending on length 47% reduction in injury crashes Portions of Foster Road, Ten Eyck Road, Central Point Road, Bull Run Road
Installing traffic signals $1,000,000 77% for angle but increase of 58% in rear-end crashes (calibrated for Oregon) Redland/Holly, 82nd Dr./Strawberry, Airport/Miley, 282nd/Haley

How will you decide what projects to do?

  • Safety improvements will be identified and prioritized by our Traffic Safety Commission; a group of county residents that meets monthly to promote traffic safety countywide and helps develop, review and recommend policies, programs and projects that address traffic safety. 
  • A local road maintenance schedule is being developed by our Transportation Maintenance experts based on a data-driven pavement management system.
  • Congestion relief projects will be identified and prioritized with the assistance of a new public advisory committee made up of residents from throughout the county. They will work from the list of 38 projects countywide that are already identified as top priority in our Transportation System Plan.

What if you decide to use some of this money for other purposes?

The Oregon Constitution requires vehicle registration fee revenue to only be used for road projects, so diverting this money for other purposes is not an option.

Why can’t you use property taxes to pay for the roads?

ORS 368.705 forbids counties from using property tax revenue for roads or transportation projects.  Only revenue from fuel tax, vehicle registration fees, weight-mile taxes (paid by heavy trucks) and similar fees may be used to fund road projects.

How is transportation funding different in Clackamas County than our neighboring counties in the Portland area?

Clackamas County has been the only county in the Portland metropolitan area without a local source of funds to maintain its roads and build improvements to relieve congestion and make the road system safer.  The following chart, which shows funding sources for the three metro area counties, shows that Clackamas County, with the most miles of roads, also has been receiving the lowest amount of funding.

Local funding sources

When can we expect to see results?

Some projects may begin as soon as late 2020, but the larger projects will take more time to design and prepare to construct. We won’t begin to receive the new revenue until 2020 and, since people pay vehicle registration fees every two years, we won’t have the full amount of revenue available to us until 2022.

What will the cities use their money for?

Each city will decide with its residents how best to use the money.  For more information, please contact your city.

Haven’t you recently begun receiving more transportation money from the state?

While revenue provided through state legislation passed in 2017 (House Bill 2017) provides support for several important transportation programs – including resurfacing major roads, ADA curb ramp upgrades for people with disabilities and safety projects – it is not enough to meet the larger needs of resurfacing local roads and building capital projects.

Public engagement

In the months leading up to approval of the VRF ordinance, public engagement included:

  • Articles in #ClackCo Quarterly mailed to all county residences four times a year
  • Articles in local media,
  • More than 20 social media posts,
  • Presentations to community and business groups that were widely publicized to CPOs and other local organizations;
  • Five Board policy sessions;
  • An ongoing website
  • Articles in three issues of the county monthly e-newsletter sent to 12,000 people.
  • Lengthy discussions at meetings of the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee (C4), followed by deliberations at city council meetings throughout the county.

How can I learn more or get involved?

Contact Ellen Rogalin at ellenrog@clackamas.us to let us know if you would like to:

  • Be added to an “interested parties” email list to learn more about the VRF, including meetings of advisory groups
  • Attend meetings of the Traffic Safety Commission
  • Attend meetings of the advisory committee on capital projects
  • Talk with someone to get more information
  • Suggest a specific transportation project on a county road that you think is needed

We look forward to hearing from you!