Dec 12, 2007

Troutdale Says No To Multco's Vehicle Registration Fee Increase

According to ORS 801.401(7), Multnomah County cannot raise the vehicle registration fee for a specific purpose unless it enters into an intergovernmental agreement with ALL overlapping jurisdictions including Troutdale, Gresham, Fairview, Wood Village, Maywood Park, Lake Oswego, Washington and Clackamas Counties, TriMet, and Metro.

The Troutdale City Council voted last night to "just say no" to Multnomah County's proposed $27 vehicle registration fee increase.

Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler asked the City Council to approve a request to sign an intergovernmental agreement that would allow the County to place a ballot measure on the May 2008 ballot. The ballot measure would ask Multnomah County voters to approve a $27 increase in vehicle registration fees. (See agenda item #4 on last night's city council agenda here.)

Why did I vote no? First of all, I agree that the Sellwood Bridge needs to be replaced. Having said that, Wheeler's plan doesn't raise enough money to do so. Wheeler intends to raise $100 million in seed money with the increased vehicle registration fee. He also said the County might be able to get $30-50 million in matching Federal funds.

However, Chair Wheeler indicated the estimated cost to replace/renovate the Sellwood Bridge could be $300 million. Based on my experience with "rough estimates", the actual cost will probably be closer to $500-600 million. Even at the "rough estimate" cost of $300 million, Wheeler's plan comes up $150 million dollars short.

My other reasons for voting no? 70% of traffic on the Sellwood bridge is from Clackamas County residents. Wheeler told us Clackamas County isn't willing to pitch in any money. The city of Portland won't pitch in either, although most of those Clackamas County residents are driving into Portland.

I had problems with the proposed intergovernmental agreement also. It said the increased vehicle registration fee would be in place "in perpetuity". It didn't specifically mention replacement of the Sellwood bridge. It only stated that 100% of the funds would be used for reconstruction and/or maintenance of County bridges over the Willamette River.

However, I did tell Wheeler last night that I would be willing to change my vote to "Yes" on the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) if some contingencies were built into the IGA.

I would agree to the IGA if it was contingent on the addition of other funds/solutions:

-Successful passage of a gasoline tax increase in the next state legislative session,
-Creation of a Regional Bridge Authority, to address bridge maintenance/replacement on a regional level
-Sufficient Federal Matching funds
-Appropriate financial contribution from Clackamas County and the City of Portland
-Use of existing Multnomah County general funds to help pay for bridge replacement.
-Require trucks over 25,000 lbs gross vehicle weight to pay their share of bridge replacement costs, not just cars and small trucks
-Creation of bicycle license fee that would go toward bridge replacement costs.

I'm not saying all of these contingencies would be required for my vote to change to "Yes" on the IGA. I just don't think Troutdale residents should be asked to vote for a plan that has no chance of working because it doesn't have enough money.

This is a regional problem. The entire region needs to pay for replacement of the Sellwood bridge, not just car and small truck vehicle owners within Multnomah County.

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