TUESDAY, FEB. 19 – An audit released this week by the city of Portland finds a massive hole in the city’s spending to pave streets.
“This audit is incendiary. It’s a wake-up call,” said Mayor Charlie Hales. “It costs far less to maintain streets in good condition than it costs to restore neglected streets. As much as 10 times more. We have to act now.”
The city’s independent auditor, LaVonne Griffin-Valade, set the tone for the audit, calling the city’s streets, “Portland’s most valuable asset group at $5 billion in replacement costs” and adding, “The audit found that the city has not adequately protected the condition of street pavement.”
The audit showed that 44 percent of Portland’s streets are in “poor” to “very poor” condition. An estimated $10 million per year is being spent to repair streets, but the audit calls for an additional $75 million, for a total of $85 million per year.
Hales said he will call upon the City Council to address the problem and to make it a priority for the 2013-14 budget, which is being debated now.
The mayor said he will craft a proposal that would:
• Create a transportation strategy with clear-cut goals and objectives.
• Change the prioritization from a “Worst First” policy – in which streets are allowed to deteriorate before receiving attention – to using the new Street Saver technology to help prioritize the order of street maintenance to both prevent this from happening in the future and continue to rehabilitate our worst streets.
• Provide annual estimates of future costs associated with street maintenance.
Upon taking office in January, Hales announced that Toby Widmer would come out of retirement to serve as interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Widmer will serve for six months while the city conducts a nationwide search for a transportation director.
Widmer’s background is in street maintenance. He retired from the city of Portlandin June 2002 after approximately 28 years in service.
“Toby came up through the ranks,” Hales said. “He was driving trucks and laying asphalt. He understands that street maintenance is his first priority.”