What happened? Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly announced last week that she will ask the City Council to place a measure on the May 2020 ballot to renew the city's temporary 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax.
Why is this important? Eudaly made the announcement during a council hearing on a report on projects funded by the tax, which Portland voters approved for four years at the November 2016 general election.
The timing shows Eudlay and Portland Bureau of Transportation officials are convinced the tax funding is necessary for maintenance and safety projects, and needs to be renewed to continue them.
Why the May 2020 election? Eudlay does not want the measure on the November 2020 ballot, when Metro is planning to ask voters to approve a transportation funding measure to help finance the Southwest Corridor MAX line and other transportation projects in the region. The request is expected to total billions of dollars, making the passage of any other revenue measure difficult.
How much has the gas tax raised so far? According to the report, two years into the tax, PBOT has collected $39 million of the projected $64 million in gas tax revenue, $7 million more than initially estimated. According to PBOT, it has spent nearly $11 million of that money, and spending will increase this year and next.
A separate heavy-vehicle tax approved by the council in 2016 is projected to bring in $8 million during the four-year period, $2 million less than originally estimated.
How is the money being spent? As required by the measure, 56 percent of the money must be spent on street maintenance projects, while the rest is spent on pedestrian or bicycle safety projects.
The maintenance spending is allowing PBOT to prevent some existing streets from deteriorating further, and repairing those considered high priorities. Many of the safety projects are in East Portland, where there is a shortage of sidewalks, crossings and street lights.
Twenty-one new projects funded by the gas tax are scheduled to break ground this year. They range from safety improvements on Southwest Capitol Highway to paving North Denver Avenue to adding protected bike lanes on Northeast Halsey and Weidler in the Gateway neighborhood.
Anything else? Ironically, the gas tax was championed by former Commissioner Steve Novick, who Eudaly defeated at the same election where voters approved it. Eudaly herself will be on the May 2020 ballot if she decides to run for re-election.
Any more information? You can find more information and an interactive map of upcoming projects at www.fixingourstreets.com/annualreport.
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