A shot in the arm for street maintenance

Bend City Councilors have decided to proceed with the recommendations of the Street Maintenance Funding Committee in order to raise the quality of streets in Bend. But what funding mechanisms will be used to improve the streets is yet to be determined.

The committee, made of up local stakeholder organizations including representatives from the Bend Chamber, Bend 2030, the Environmental Center and two city councilors, participated in six meetings during the months of September in October. Their quest was to agree on a number for the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) – a numerical index between 0 and 100 that is used to indicate the general condition of pavement – as well as the funding necessary to meet that PCI goal and two different funding mechanisms, one with a fuel tax and one without.

In general, committee members wanted a PCI that maintained streets to maximize their useful life and minimize life cycle costs, according to the Street Maintenance Funding Committee Summary Report. The committee also saw value in first stopping the PCI decline—“stop the bleeding”—and/or improving the PCI citywide. The majority of the committee agreed raising the PCI to 73 over five years would meet those goals.

According to David Abbas, streets and operations director for the City of Bend, it would take about $7 million to bring Bend’s system-wide PCI up to 73. Additionally, Council supported the idea of a plan that would improve the PCI for Collector and Arterial Streets but phase in the PCI improvements for Residential streets, exploring the concept of a bond package in 2017 that may also include growth and safety-related transportation projects. The result of this identified PCI goal, a tiered service level based on a street classification, and additional resources from the General Fund result in a $2.7 million annual funding gap. This funding gap is considerably lower than the initial $5 million dollar annual funding gap that existed prior to the formation of the Street Maintenance Funding Committee, demonstrating a high reliance on prioritizing street maintenance through existing resources.

However, despite additional General Fund resources, the funding gap is significant enough to warrant the exploration of a new revenue source. The committee explored various funding options including a fuel tax, an increase in water and sewer franchise fees, a transportation utility fee, a food and beverage tax and a local marijuana tax.

The Street Maintenance Funding Committee polling showed a preference for improvement to the entire street system with a fuel tax of 7 cents or less.

Peter Skrbek, who represented the Bend Chamber on the Street Funding Maintenance Committee, said a strategy of preventative maintenance will cost the tax payers millions less over the next few decades. He also explained a multi-pronged approach with multiple funding mechanisms would be needed to fill the funding gap.

“The point is the fuel tax is one viable option… but if we make this our only solution to this long term problem it’s not enough by itself,” Skrbek said.

The majority of council agreed on the committee’s suggestion for the PCI. Councilors Casey Roats and Victor Chudowsky thought raising the PCI by five points in five years was too aggressive. Councilor Boddie was not in attendance.

Councilors also agreed on the general fund allocations suggested by the committee and to move forward with a two-phase approach that would address residential streets in deep disrepair and multi-modal transportation with a different funding mechanism such as a General Obligation Revenue Bond by 2017.

Councilors did not discuss the issue of a fuel tax on the ballot during the Monday meeting. During a future work session, councilors will determine how to fill the funding gap.

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  1. W. Larson says:

    I am fully against raising the water and sewer rates to fund roads. They have been raised SO much in the past few years. How about we spend less on bringing MORE tourists in and use those funds to take care of our city? And why aren’t the tourists paying more to maintain the streets? They certainly cause a real portion of the damage. I feel the residents of Bend have been given the burden to carry so much in this town and frankly have had enough. Locals should count and be a priority too!

  2. Steve Wilkes says:

    A fuel tax is the most regressive, punitive funding mechanism for Bend citizens. It hits the poorer folks and fuel business unreasonably: poor individuals b/c it hits them on a necessity item and the fuel vendors b/c people will cut back on fuel purchases. The needed revenue should come from those who are most able to afford it and who obviously have discretionary income to spend on unnecessary luxuries. We should raise the revenue by levying a food and beverage tax and a local marijuana tax.

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