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Portlanders split on street maintenance fee

Anyone looking for an easy solution to Portland's street funding woes will be disappointed by a survey released Thursday at City Hall.

It shows that city residents are almost evenly split over whether to pay a small monthly fee for maintenance and safety improvements.

And they are even more opposed to most other revenue options, including a city sales tax, a city income tax and a property tax increase.

As a result, Transportation Commission Steve Novick says Portlanders and the rest of the City Council need to continue discussing what to do to fix and improve the city's streets for a least a couple more months. He hopes the council will do something to generate more money for the streets before too long, however, because they are continuing to deteriorate.

"The longer we wait, he more it's going to cost to repair the streets," Novick said at the press conference where he released the survey.

The survey was conducted by DHM Research as part of an ongoing effort by Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales to come up with a funding package to seriously reduce the city's backlog of poorly maintained streets and add such safety improvements as more sidewalks, crosswalks and crossing signals.

Previous surveys have show increasing street maintenance and improving safety is a top priority for most Portlanders. But the survey released on April 10 showed 47 percent of residents support an $8 monthly street maintenance fee while 49 percent oppose it.

The figures for a $12 fee are 44 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed. When additional programs like increased transit or bridge maintenance are added, support for a $12 fee only increases to 46 percent while 48 percent oppose it.

According to the poll, there are number of things Portland could do to increase support for an $8 or $12 fee. They including requiring businesses to also pay it, putting it in a dedicated fund that cannot be spent on anything else, and eliminating the leaf removal fee it either one is approved.

Support only increases a few percentage points with those implementation options, however.

No other funding option received more than 34 percent in the survey, however.

Ironically, an $8 or $12 monthly fee would not raise nearly enough money to fully erase the maintenance backlog. They would only raise between $34 and $52 million a year (including business contributions), while the City Auditors Office says at least $75 million a year is more like it.

Hales and Novick have scheduled the following series of public forums in coming weeks to continuing discussing what to do about about the streets:

• Wednesday, April 16, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 N.E. Glisan St.

• Thursday, April 17, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kaiser Permanente's Town Hall, 3704 N. Interstate Ave.

• Thursday, April 24, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Hwy.

• Thursday, May 1, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock School, 5601 S.E. 50th Ave.