City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, announced a plan Thursday to craft a new city funding source for street maintenance and related spending.

Novick echoed Mayor Charlie Hales’ earlier pledge to figure out a new revenue source in 2014 for the city’s chronically underfunded street and sidewalk construction and maintenance program.

“We want to get something done this year,” Novick said.

For starters, he named a 26-member advisory group to evaluate funding needs and revenue ideas. Members include himself, Mayor Hales, and leaders of business, labor, environmental, neighborhood and minority groups.

Backers also commissioned Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, one of the city’s leading pollsters, to conduct a poll of city residents’ views on additional transportation funding. Results of that poll, which is now being conducted, will be released in the next 10 days, Novick said.

“There will be a lot of opportunity for community engagement in these issues in the next several months,” Novick said. “We’re going to have a series of town halls in February.”

Among the possible funding ideas cited by Hales are a new city gas tax or street utility fee, as championed by former Mayor Sam Adams. It’s not clear yet if a measure will be put before voters. That will be among the topics for discussion, Novick said, but it’s clear there won’t be anything on the upcoming May primary ballot.

“A variety of options will be on the table,” Novick said, adding that he's not starting out with a preconceived funding source. “We’re starting by focusing on what the needs are, rather than the funding mechanism.”

He noted that a recent city audit found the city would need an additional $75 million a year for 10 years just to catch up with deferred maintenance on city streets. With other items like sidewalks added in, the need could easily reach $100 million a year, he said.

But “that’s a ton of money,” Novick said, and backers will need to evaluate citizens’ ability to pay.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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