A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Waking up to costs of street repairs

Written November 27th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

This is a section of Southwest 12th Avenue near Walnut Street, photographed on Nov. 25, 2023.

Talk about “funding” to fix Albany streets makes people’s eyes glaze over. But the minutes of the Nov. 6 city council meeting contain a shocker that might wake people up.

“Reconstructing all of our streets will cost $12.8 million per year for 40 years,” it says in the minutes of one of those discussions about funding.

On Nov. 28, this Tuesday, the city’s Transportation Advisory Commission is scheduled to hear about alternatives for raising some of that money.

Then, the council will consider the problem in a work session set for Monday, Dec. 11.

Albany Public Works Director Chris Bailey has pointed out that one city council after another has been talking about how to pay for more street work since 1982. They’ve proposed a local gas tax and the voters have said to forget that more than once.

The city has managed to keep pavement on the major streets (arterials and collectors) in decent shape, but even there it is not able to do all that should be done. But it’s mostly local streets in the older parts of town that are falling apart.

As for that $12.8 million a year, that’s the amount that the city is short in street maintenance. The sum has been described as the “combined annual funding gap” to bring all streets to an acceptable condition.

Twelve or thirteen million dollars more every year for 40 years? That’s not possible.

In recent years the council members then in office imposed a rain tax to handle storm water, followed by a monthly service fee tacked on to the water and sewer bills. Now, are they thinking of another monthly fee for streets?

Most of today’s Albany council members have not faced the street repair dilemma before. Now they do, and we’ll see how they will handle it soon. (hh)

The pavement on Fourth Avenue S.E., near Railroad Street, on November 25, 2023.

22 responses to “Waking up to costs of street repairs”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    They have willingly IGNORED our streets while pouring OUR money into downtown. How could they have NOT noticed?

    What SMUG answer do you have Ray K?

    • MarK says:

      His answer would be, “Let’s raise taxes and put more money into CARA.” What a waste. Hopefully people start waking up and face reality.

  2. Al NYMAN says:

    Why don’t you ask Coach K to solve the problem as I brought this up at least a year ago that Albany would end up with gravel roads with the amount they were paying for replacing the existing roads. He pointed out a budget or something and never addressed the problem that government continually outspends their income with virtually no way to add additional income without a vote from voters who are already tired of the waste they presently see.

  3. Kyle T says:

    As vehicles get heavier and heavier this will only get worse. Hoping to see some longer term solutions like investing in a more bicycle infrastructure so that we can reduce overall road wear and tear, instead of just pumping more money into roads that large vehicles are just going to tear up again.

    • Mark says:

      Kyle, that is a very myopic point of view. It presupposes that people will automagically start riding bicycles to save the streets. People drive cars. Fact. People are not going to stop driving cars. Fact. Investing in bicycle infrastructure changes nothing. In fact, that might be a bigger waste of the tax payers’ dollar.

      • Cap B. says:

        Bikes are nice, but not everyone can use them for transportation. What we need on the whole West Coast is more public transportation. That translates to buses in Albany….more than 3 or 4 of them….and those buses being available most hours of the day. That won’t happen, but that is what we need.

        We also have let private industry take over assisted living and make it so expensive that most people can’t afford it. Old people wouldn’t need to drive if they could afford assisted living.

      • Kyle T says:

        People drive cars, but they also do ride bicycles, either because they want to or they because have no choice (don’t have a car, public transit is infrequent). Nobody is going to ride bikes to save the streets, obviously, but I think a lot more people would ride if we had better routes for them through town. Not going to solve all our problems at once, but at least it’s something.

  4. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Bill & Al –
    I have said many times, I do NOT have the answer. It is NOT so simple as you try and make it out. For *years* I have been directing anyone who cares, to the city’s web site specifically for this item: albany oregon dot gov / streets Read each of the sections carefully. If you have a plausible and palatable idea, do bring it forward. Simply whining about things you disagree with (as admittedly, we ALL do at times), solves absolutely zip. However, I do give both of you chops for using your real names. Much respect vs. folks who hide behind their anonymity…

    • Cap B. says:

      Smug Ray K., aka Coach K! (Love the names, and Hasso didn’t edit them out. Thanks, Hasso!) Coach Ray, do you read the news or listen to the news? It is not safe in this country, any longer, for people to know your name, if you express an opinion they don’t like. Are you aware of mass shootings and of our murder rates? Have you heard of threats to our election workers?

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Of course those things do happen. That said, IMO, it’s being overly paranoid to dwell on them to the detriment of your living a full life to the best of your ability…

      • KinderParkNeighbor says:

        I once called Ray to get an answer as to why there was still an illegal homeless camp set up next to the Periwinkle Stream behind my apartment. I used to tell them to stop screaming or I’ll call the cops, until they started aiming death threats at me and saying they will rape my mother.

        His solution was for me to go to a city council meeting, then state my name and my problem revolving around the fact that I live next to Kinder Park. All so they can post it up on Youtube for the world to see.

        Had I done that, I’m pretty sure the only responses I’d get would be: “We’re working on it.” and “The police do a bang up job keeping the universe from imploding.” Which neither seem to be true…

        I’m also pretty sure that even if I used my real name here, he still would rather insult me than answer my question.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Well, it seems “your good ole boys club” is addressing the issue NOW. Why not 20 years ago? All you had to do is LOOK at the streets deteriorating year by year. A little bit of common sense could have kept things far more manageable.

      How much are they spending on rail crossing upgrades that weren’t needed? About a years worth of money!

  5. Cap B. says:

    Well, there would be no problem raising 12 million to repair streets if CARA (Central Albany Revitalization Agency) had never been cooked up by the Council for “gentrifying” downtown. They are spending north of 21 million alone on Monteith Park and Dave Clark Trail and placing fancy bricks in a portion of Water Street.. There was no vote of the people on forming CARA. Oh, almost forgot….there is the boondoggle of taking out Water Street rail crossings and spending millions putting fancier ones in. AND (I could go on and on) it takes taxpayer money to keep that Carousel from falling into red ink, I’m sure.

  6. hj.anony1 says:

    I sound like a broken record. I keep sayin….They are coming for more city util $$$

  7. Glenn Edwards says:

    Clearly the answer is restore the streets to gravel or mud like the good ol’ days! Way cheaper and we could cut taxes because that is all that matters. Unfortunately Americans think the only cost of owning a car is their purchase price. No free lunch, or streets. This is the cost of a car-centric city and worth every penny.

  8. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Time to understand two realities of Albany politics.

    1. Cash-based accounting.
    2. Opposition to direct democracy (referendum-initiative).

    By using a financial method known as cash-basis accounting, the city’s budget gets balanced in name only.

    It allows Albany councilors to make long-term financial commitments (like road maintenance) without identifying, and appropriately prioritizing and budgeting for, a committed source of future money.

    No politician wants to be constrained by a financial method that reduces their spending power today. And cash-basis accounting enables that desire. It gets councilors (re)elected.

    But in the long term, more taxes, fees, and clawbacks will be necessary to pay for yesterday’s feel-good policy decisions. Just declare an immediate “emergency” to avoid asking for permission to take more money from city residents.

    Wash, rinse, repeat. And hope city residents never run out of shampoo.

  9. Ray H says:

    Nice reply Ray K

  10. Al Nyman says:

    I actually like Coach K and that is the answer he gave before because there is no answer other than setting up sinking funds to replace and repair schools, roads, buildings, etc. as everybody spends all the money just like Gordon stated in his reply. I audited municipalities in 1963 as a college junior for an accounting firm which did a multitude of them and I believe there were separate funds at that time but I am not sure of that.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      For a very-quick “look” at where your property taxes end up, go to:
      albany oregon dot gov
      Your Government
      Where Do My Property Taxes Go?

  11. RICH KELLUM says:

    Bad Streets is the choice that the council has been making for years, taking funds out of the street fund, spending money on things that are more important to them rather than streets. It is all a choice that the Council makes, there is nothing written in stone that says we need to have two Libraries instead of one, For years the City paid for childcare for people in Jefferson, Millersburg etc. while not keeping up with the street maintenance. Let’s face it, art sculptures made on the east coast that didn’t work when they arrived is more important to the Council than fixing the streets. With VERY few exceptions, the mandated funds for various items are mandated by Council directive.. More taxes are not needed, hard choices by Council are what is in order.

  12. CHEZZ says:

    Apply for a hardship matching grant to gravel the roads that are in desperate need of repair, especially in the oldest sections of town. It would add a historical touch to the neighborhoods!


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