Transportation bureau looking for new ways to pay for road work

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland's Bureau of Transportation wants to retool the way residents pay for street maintenance.

Bureau workers say the city needs to find a new way to pay for streets because the money from the gas tax is slowly decreasing. The city will start holding public meetings in February all around Portland to gather ideas for ways to re-tool the system it uses to fund street maintenance and improvement. It wants to hear from the public on what to pay for and how to pay for it.

Part of the drop in gas tax revenues for streets comes from a larger number of drivers ditching their cars to commute by bicycle and public transit instead.

"There are a lot of reasons why the gas tax is not keeping up with inflation," PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera told KATU. "But that makes a problem because we have the same streets we've always had for decades and we have less money -- inflation adjusted -- to maintain those streets and Portlanders know that. They understand that. They understand the transportation system is not what it should be."

PBOT hopes to come up with a plan that sets priorities and funding not just for the coming year, but five or 10 years down the road. It wants to have a plan ready by the time the City Council's budgeting process begins in June.

Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick have made improving city streets a top priority.