County reports results of transportation survey

For Immediate Release Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sponsored by: Department of Land Use & Transportation , Administrative Services/Office of the Director Division

Washington County’s Department of Land Use & Transportation and DHM Research reported today on the results of a May 2014 survey assessing residents’ opinions on transportation issues and road maintenance funding, including a potential countywide vehicle registration fee (VRF) as outlined in Ordinance 778.

Key findings from the survey, independently conducted by DHM Research, were presented to the Washington County Board of Commissioners. They include:

  • Ninety-six percent of respondents rated Washington County as a good or excellent place to live.

  • Traffic congestion and maintaining roads and infrastructure were rated as the most important transportation issues that residents want local government to address.

  • Maintaining existing roads and highways rated the highest among transportation investment priorities, followed closely by using technology to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

  • Support for the proposed $30 per year vehicle registration fee (VRF) was approximately 50 percent among respondents.

  • Top reasons cited for supporting the $30 fee included maintaining roads in good and safe condition for the health and growth of the economy and optimal emergency response, in addition to keeping local control of funds.

  • Top reasons cited for not supporting the fee centered on the idea that residents are already paying enough for transportation.

“Roads are critical to Washington County’s overall economy and the excellent quality of life we enjoy here,” said Andrew Singelakis, Director of Land Use & Transportation. “Maintaining our roads in good and safe condition has become increasingly difficult over the years. Traditional funding sources, primarily the gas tax, are simply not keeping up with road maintenance needs. Poor road conditions will get worse and are projected to cost up to 10 times more to fix later.”

Adam Davis of DHM Research noted this latest round of research shows that Washington County residents recognize the importance of maintaining our roads. “In all of our transportation surveys, maintenance trumps any other transportation system improvement—it’s the number one transportation issue,” he said.

The county has proactively adopted cost-effective best practices in its road maintenance operations to maximize efficiencies and worked to prioritize use of limited funding. However, managing costs alone is not expected to close the gap.

The vehicle registration fee is the preferred funding option because it is user-based, practical to administer, and funds are stable over time. All funds would stay in Washington County and be added to what is collected from the gas tax and a weight-mile tax on heavy vehicles to cover the county’s $10.5 million road maintenance backlog, plus maintenance needs for the next 15 to 20 years. Cities in Washington County would receive 40 percent of funds for use on roads they maintain.

State law allows counties to adopt a fee of up to $43 per year. Washington County is considering a $30 per year fee on most vehicles owned by residents and businesses. A $17 per year fee would apply to motorcycles and mopeds. Government, school, farm, antique, special interest and recreational vehicles, in addition to vehicles owned by disabled veterans would be exempt from the fee under state law.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners can decide to adopt the proposed VRF ordinance, refer the issue to the November ballot, or drop it. The next Board of Commissioners public hearing on the VRF is scheduled for June 17, 2014. 

More information on the proposed fee is available on the county's website at www.co.washington.or.us/VRF. There is also an opportunity to submit comments about the proposed fee on the website.

Washington County is committed to planning, building and maintaining a great transportation system, ensuring the safety of all roadway users, and to operating the county roadway system in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.

Contact:

Stephen Roberts, Communications Coordinator
(503) 846-4963
stephen_roberts@co.washington.or.us