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  • 20 Apr 2014

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Portland voters prefer safer roads and streets to paving gravel roads or adding streetcars

Portlanders care lots more about traffic safety and basic road maintenance than paving gravel streets or building streetcars, according to a new survey released Monday afternoon. The survey, by DHM Research, was designed to light the way for a pending city campaign to create new funding for sidewalks, roads and other unmet transportation needs.

The survey found “we’ve got a strong majority of Portlanders wanting us to do something,” said Adam Davis, the pollster who conducted the survey of 800 registered voters. The numbers don’t really indicate who would support a new city revenue source for transportation, or how much they’d be willing to spend, Davis said. However, “it all portends well for some success here,” he said.

One of the interesting findings for City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, is that Portlanders don’t really care if the city spends the money it raises on city-run facilities or not. That means voters — and Novick — are open to the idea of sharing any money raised with other transportation providers. Examples: money to support a Multnomah County-owned bridge over the Willamette so it won’t collapse during an earthquake, TriMet frequent bus

service on 122nd Avenue in East Portland, or improving state-owned Powell Boulevard, also in East Portland.

Leah Treat, city transportation director, said the survey indicates that her bureau’s “back to basics” focus on road maintenance and safety is in sync with what votes want.

Novick recently picked a citizens panel to help frame a potential transportation funding measure, and he said it will take another five months to chart a path forward.

One idea to be considered is former Mayor Sam Adams’ idea for a road utility fee. However, Novick said, that would have raised about $25 million a year by levying a basic $5 a month fee for most households. That’s well less than the amount the city auditor said was needed just to properly maintain city roads, Novick noted.

The Oregon Legislature, starting this year, allowed local cities like Portland to establish a local gas tax. However, a city gas tax increase of one cent would only yield about $1 million, so a modest local gas tax wouldn’t raise the kind of money Novick hopes to get.

In the coming weeks, Novick, Mayor Charlie Hales and Treat will host three town halls to discuss city transportation funding needs with residents. Those are:

• Thursday, Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Sunnyside Environmental School, 3421 S.E. Salmon St.

• Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), 10301 N.E. Glisan St.

• Thursday, Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib