Pendleton residents have long been concerned with potholes and maintenance of city streets, and for good reason. The Pavement Management Budget Options Report completed in 2018 revealed that concerns are well-founded. On average 75% of the useful life of our streets is used up, and unless we do something we can anticipate worsening streets and increasing maintenance costs with each passing year.
With a value of $115 million, the 87 miles of paved streets we have in Pendleton are both our most used and our most valuable asset. We currently spend nearly $1.2 million per year on street maintenance. $545,000 comes from Pendleton’s share of state and federal gas tax; $438,000 comes from the street utility fee we all pay as part of our monthly utility bill; and $173,000 comes from the city’s General Fund, including $100,000 in taxes collected from marijuana sales in Pendleton.
The reason our streets get worse each year, even as we spend over $1 million per year on maintenance, is the reality of deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance is the amount of money we should have spent on maintaining our streets but haven’t because we haven’t chosen to make it available. In the 2018 Pavement Management Budget Options Report deferred maintenance — the amount of money we should have spent on street maintenance but haven’t — was $12 million. As big a number as that is, at current funding levels deferred maintenance is projected to approach $40 million in the next 10 years. The reason for this is the perniciousness of the deferred maintenance cycle. We don’t spend enough to maintain our streets, so each year our streets get worse. As our streets get worse, maintenance costs go up. As maintenance costs go up, we can do less maintenance causing streets to get worse — and on and on. This cycle will only stop under one of two conditions: we either adequately fund street maintenance, or we allow all our streets to fail, at which point we will be facing a replacement cost of $115 million.
As a community, we’ve known about this problem for decades. By choosing not to adequately fund street maintenance, we have by default chosen to allow our streets to fail. Based on public outreach, we know that fixing our streets is the community’s highest priority, so this year the city council is committed to making a different choice.
From information we have from consulting engineers and our own engineering staff, we know that if we increase our street maintenance funding by an additional $1 million per year, within 10 years we can bring the majority of our streets into good condition and keep them there, thereby assuring the most efficient use of public funds for street maintenance. While the council is committed to raising this funding by the end of this year, we are looking for input on how funding should be raised.
For the past six months, the council has been talking to civic groups and has hosted three public meetings to talk to residents about street funding options. A list of funding options, including a survey where you can provide input on your preferred funding options until Nov. 15, can be found on the city’s web page at https://pendleton.or.us/streetfunding.
Our streets are in crisis and it is time we do something to make sure we pass on a better street system to future generations of Pendletonians than the failing system we have today. Please complete the survey at the link above, and if you have any questions please contact me or other councilors because, while doing nothing is no longer an option, we need your input to find a funding solution that best meets the needs and values of our community.