A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

This bumpy ride has a point

Written February 10th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Unless you live there, you probably avoid Albany’s Fifth Avenue east of Lyon Street because of of its rough pavement. Camera in hand, I took a ride there Friday to illustrate just how bumpy the surface is.

The Albany City Council has talked — off and on for the last year or two — about how to raise funds to fix the city’s streets and keep them in good shape. This will take a mountain of money. But the estimates so far cover only the arterial and collector streets. Residential streets like Fifth and many others are in worse shape and will take additional millions to rebuild.

As it turns out, about 17 miles of non-arterial streets that are rated in poor shape lie within the CARA urban renewal district . The district borrows money for projects, then repays the loans from property tax revenue on increased values within the district. This has been a controversial method because until the debt is paid off and the district ceases to exist, CARA takes some of the money that otherwise would go to other public services including schools, fire safety and law enforcement.

It’s in everybody’s interest for CARA to fulfill its reason for being — conquering urban blight and reviving central Albany economically — and then go out of business as quickly as possible. So as I’m rocking along Fifth on my bike, avoiding the deepest potholes as best I can, I’m wondering: Why can’t CARA employ its remaining financing authority, more than $20 million, to mount a crash program to repair the worst public streets? This would be useful especially east of Lyon, where CARA has been far less active than in the old commercial core. (Not for lack of trying, but efforts like small grants to encourage buyers to restore historic houses to single-family occupancy have largely flopped.)

In theory — my theory, anyway — having streets without holes, and sidewalks without trip hazards every few feet, might just cause a revival on the east side of central Albany. And traffic would benefit too, whether on four wheels or two. (hh)

Behold one of the many potholes on Fifth Avenue S.E.

9 responses to “This bumpy ride has a point”

  1. Steve Ker says:

    I drive 3rd, 4th and 5th every week and they are in sad shape
    . For all the millions that Cara had spent if we don’t have decent roads people are going to stay away from that area.
    The city could at least fill in the pot holes.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Given tax increment financing (TIF) will be used, here are three basic questions CARA will need to answer:

    (1) What are the TIF revenue projections for this $20,000,000 project?
    (2) How much increased tax revenue will flow back to each of the overlapping taxing districts?
    (3) Would this project occur without TIF?

    Hopefully, CARA will show their work in answering these questions to give Albany taxpayers confidence that data, not emotion, drives their decision making..

  3. Dave says:

    Many of your streets are a mess. In Hasso’s video it is obvious that the pavement is disintegrating, due to age, weather, poor/no maintenance, improper installations, etc. I also question how much of the bumpiness is caused by the utility companies and their contractors (water/sewer, gas, electric, telephone, etc.)? Presumably by city permit, they are allowed to trench thought the pavement to install underground infrastructure and then required to return the pavement to a “as found” or better condition. How may of us have driven/biked down the a street months after such work has bee completed and found canyons where their repair work has subsided below the level of the original pavement, thus causing a jarring ride? This seems especially noticeable in newer areas where there is frequent disturbance of the pavement. In some cases the repairs seem to work, in others not. Are there any established procedures on the permitting agencies part to ensure the repairs hold up, i.e. require a bond from the installing contractor for any repairs and perform an inspection say six months later. Even now I can hear a chorus from the city leaders “We have no money or time to do this. It won’t work.” Sounds like a good opportunity for a citizen advisory committee!

  4. hj.anony1 says:

    Street Repairs! Yes! Hooray for keeping up the commons. We should be that is.

    Like the video HH. At one minute and twenty two seconds, you let out an audible Ahhhhh. Just wish we could have viewed a nice close up of that particular pot-hole.

    That is what it was ….right? Anyways, I enjoy your postings.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    At some point, hard decisions will have to be made regarding street repairs. Currently, residential streets are way down the list of priority due to the expense of simply trying to adequately maintain arterial & collector streets (of which many of those are troublesome). The vast majority of residential streets inside the URD are already classified as “poor.”

    Personally, I believe that “poor” (needing complete reconstruction vs. an overlay) streets are a strong contributing factor in blight. As such, I believe some CARA money could very wisely be used to fix the worst-of-the-worst. Especially if the work could be combined with existing future plans for water, sewer, stormwater reconstruction.

    Whether or not is should be 100% of the balance of borrowing authority in CARA has to weigh against competing projects in the current & future plans. That said, I have no problem getting behind using some for street repair in the URD because it will not require raising additional fees, taxes, G.O. bonds, etc. to do so.

    It will also allow the existing general fund $$ plans, to work on underlying infrastructure, be better utilized in other areas of the community for similar purposes — that also need serious repair.

  6. Mary Brock says:

    Finally someone that carries clout (you, Hasso) is saying what I have been harping on for years. (My lack of clout might have to do with my being a woman who did clerical work for a living….you think?) Anyway, back to the subject. Yes, Hasso, use the CARA money for the streets in the CARA district and put CARA out of business as soon as allowed…and some money then can filter back to schools, county, and city from property taxes going to CARA. Signed, #MeToo

  7. Gothic Albany says:

    Those streets east of Lyons are a lot worse than the sidewalks and trees they just repaired/replaced downtown…..

  8. centrist says:

    I’m ignorant as to the proper blend for what most of us call blacktop. Been stopped in many construction zones while touring in the RV and saw an interesting paving setup.
    The machine pulled up the old paving, then pulverized, reconstituted, and relaid it.
    Wonder if that technique could apply in this situation for less money


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