Council talks street repairs and cash – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council talks street repairs and cash

Written February 6th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

New Councilman Mike Sykes, second from right, asked why Albany has not done more to maintain streets over the years.

The Albany City Council is working itself up to a plan for raising the money it will take to upgrade and maintain city streets, many of which are in poor shape. Early estimates say the city would need $10-19 million a year, depending on how fast the council wants to accomplish how much.

For the second work session in a row, the council Monday got a briefing on the condition of pavement on Albany streets. It also got ballpark estimates of the gap between what the city spends on streets (about $1.6 million a year) and what it needs.

The city has 187 miles of streets. Based on the latest assessment, in 2016, the council learned that most main arterials and collectors are in good to fair shape, but pavement on about half of local streets is poor or worse. The poor streets are concentrated in the older parts of town, while the pavement in subdivisions built in the last 20 or 30 years is generally good.

Councilman Mike Sykes, in his second month on the council since being elected from Ward I last fall, wanted to know why the streets had not been better maintained all along, since their deteriorating condition was obvious to everyone. “We haven’t been spending money wisely,” he said.

The answers he got included inflation, the city’s too-small share of the gas tax, other budget priorities, and the general tendency to let maintenance go until it becomes an urgent need and then to borrow money. It’s like homeowners not putting away money every month for a new roof — until the roof fails and then taking out a second mortgage, someone said.

The city’s options include a local gas tax, local assessment districts for residential streets, and bond issues to be repaid from property taxes. Some 10 or 15 years ago, voters rejected the latest street bond proposal after approving one that paid for rebuilding some major streets. Also possible, a “street utility” fee that would be collected every month.

Council discussions of all this with public works managers likely will continue in March. (hh)

7 responses to “Council talks street repairs and cash”

  1. John Hartman says:

    Toll Roads are the solution in today’s transactional America. We can no longer rely on the good will of citizens to keep the community moving into the future. Pay-as-You-Go for roads, schools, and other City services.

  2. Shawn Dawson says:

    Of the mentioned options, I’d support a regional gas tax first, as long as all the money raised was dedicated to street maintenance.

    My second choice would be a street utility fee, as long as it was not based on property value, but was simply based on residency. That is, apartment renters and home owners drive the same amount and should pay the same amount.

    I would definitely oppose a bond measure for a few reasons. First, this is not a long term solution, but rather a patch that would not solve long term, ongoing funding for road maintenance. Second, I would rather ‘pay-as-you-go’ via a gas tax or street utility fee rather than go into debt. Lastly, bonds are tied to home ownership and property values rather than road usage, which is inherently unfair.


  3. Tony White says:

    What a surprise! The solution: anything except “reduce spending.” And, preferably, “raise taxes.”

  4. hj.anony1 says:

    As luck would have it, life has taken me on some rough Albany roads in the past couple days. Namely SE 4th and SE 24th. Rough stretches! I have no doubt there are many more as these are off the “main arterials and collectors”.

    Leave it to the newbie on the council to be asking questions. Fresh eyes are important. Then again he may be concerned about the cost of replacement tires for the business vans & trucks. Surprise me Sykes and bring a progressive twist to the council!?

  5. Tammy Simer says:

    I have been wondering for a quite a few years why the streets are allowed to get go bad. The worst Street I’ve seen that has a lot of traffic is Hill Street. I would approve what ever is needed. It really should be a priority.


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