A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Why some Albany streets don’t get fixed

Written August 1st, 2023 by Hasso Hering

These potholes were on Pine Street just south of Seventh Avenue on April 18, when there was still such a thing as rain.

What more can be said about potholes on Albany streets, or more generally about why the city says it can’t repair those streets that seem to be mostly a collection of potholes and asphalt patches. We’re about to find out.

The subject of potholes came up a few weeks ago when somebody complained about two particular holes in the pavement on shopping center parking lots. The lots’ owners got them fixed.

Now, there have been murmuring from city officials that streets — their condition and what to do about about it — will soon come up for a new round of discussions with the city council.

Next Monday, Aug. 7, Public Works Director Chis Bailey plans to speak to the council about this very topic.

“We are kicking off another discussion on funding for the transportation system, particularly street maintenance,” Bailey told me in an email. “The discussion on the 7th is just a general overview of the system and previous efforts. We will get into the details of street maintenance at later meetings.”

When people complain about the terrible condition of Albany streets, they mean local, residential streets, especially in the older parts of town both west and east of Lyon Street, but especially east.

Previous city councils talked about this off and on over many years. The theme was always: Not enough money. In 2018, the people then on the council put a 5-cent-a-gallon local fuel tax on the ballot only to see voters reject it by a ratio of two to one.

There is money, of course, just not for a major effort to fix local streets.

While the local fuel tax ballot measure was pending, for example, the city spent about $9 million in urban renewal money on making downtown streets more attractive. Using urban renewal cash to fix other streets would have been possible and legal but was never considered.

The city’s approach has been to spend available street money maintaining the main traffic routes. Queen Avenue in west Albany, for example, is getting a $6.2 million make-over this summer.

This makes sense from a practical angle. If the arterials were allowed to become potholed like local streets, the poor conditions would cause far more trouble to many more people.

The city does spend comparatively tiny amounts on maintenance of local streets. Forty street segments in North Albany (about 70,000 square feet) got a “slurry seal” treatment last month. The low bid for that job, by a company from Marcola, was $173,500.

The slurry job prompted a few complaints. Why put that messy slurry new streets when old ones were falling apart? The point is to keep new streets from falling apart like the old ones.

The budget for filling potholes and similar repairs such as crack sealing is small: $80,000 this fiscal year and $85,000 the year after that. The street crew can do something with that, and it does as the photo below shows.

But it’s not much, and it’s not going to fix the streets that need it the most. (hh)


Next time I looked, on May 1, the biggest of the holes on Pine near Seventh had been patched.

16 responses to “Why some Albany streets don’t get fixed”

  1. Anony Mouse says:

    Setting budget priorities involves making choices with a finite amount of dollars to satisfy an unlimited number of “needs.” The process identifies whose ox will be gored.

    And the street ox was gored a long time ago.

    You think the city budget is stretched now?

    In 2028 the 2002 PERS bonds (debt) will expire and the city will have to create a new, big pot of local money.

    More bloodletting is on the horizon.

  2. chuck says:

    Might be fun to see hundreds of residents show up for the council meeting on Monday. I’ll be there.

  3. Peg says:

    Well if they didn’t tear down perfectly good buildings at an overage and bad ideas like a PAWN SHOP going in the other empty bank and bad city leadership, we might get things done correctly and we wouldn’t be having these conversations

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      The way the economy is going, a pawn shop is actually a very smart business choice. When is the last time you’ve been in one? They aren’t all “seedy”.

  4. MarK says:

    The city should move some of the money they use to buy real estate into repairing the streets (instead of taking it in the shorts with their “deals”)

  5. Lisa says:

    Didn’t we get any money from the infrastructure bill?

  6. Christine says:

    My understanding, which may be faulty, is that there are miles of sewer that need replacing. Most of these are under the very streets of which you are concerned. The thinking is to wait, if possible, to replace the sewers and then fix the streets over top. To tear up and fix the streets before fixing the sewer system would be exceedingly more expensive and cause much more disruption of the traffic in these areas.

  7. Guy Shadwick says:

    Did we really need new police and Fire Department buildings before asking for a loc al fuel tax? Quit buying properties that you loose your ass on. Take care of our infrastructure stop mismanaging our money. You blew it!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      We *absolutely did need* the new FD & PD! Did you ever visit them prior to the new *INFRASTRUCTURE* we built? Had you done so, you would not have made the comment you did…

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Exactly how has that improved our service since? If you have a fire, they come, just like before. If you need the police, don’t count on it.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          That you’re unwilling to “see” the advantages to having new “seismically-safe” buildings boggles my mind… Talk to the Fire & Police Chief’s and get their opinion…

      • Cap B. says:

        Remind me why we have Kopczynski as a Counselor again! Oh yeah, he ran again and got elected. He thinks he has to grace us with his presence on the Council every few years or so. He has even said that he is going to keep running, taking time off, and then running again and again! God, if you are there…deliver me from Kopczynski!

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          Correct. When I take another self-imposed term limit at end of 2024, I’ll sit out for 2 years. If there happens to be an “open” position 2 years later, I may throw my hat in the ring again… If that happens Cap B, and you live in Ward II, please feel to vote for my opponent at that time. :-)

  8. Bob Woods says:

    Most of the money the City receives is “restricted”. Payments of water, sewer and stormwater can only be used to pay for those service areas.

    Gas Tax can only be spent on streets, and when you went from cars in 1970 getting 12-18 MPG to cars in 2023 getting 30 MPG the amount of gas tax revenue craters given the cost of repairing streets.

    Property Tax can be spent on anything. It OVERWHELMINGLY goes to pay for Police and Fire services.

    You want more money spent of streets cut Police and Fire ( and wait for your neighbors to chase you down the street carrying pitchforks and torches for cutting Police and Fire, and rightly so.)

    You get what you pay for. Quit-Your-Belly-Aching and understand it your responsibly tom pay for what you get/want.

    EVERY service that government provides, is wanted by a sizable chunk of people.


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