Conditional Vehicle Registration Fee supports road maintenance, safety

An ordinance establishing a conditional $30 vehicle registration fee (VRF) to offset some of the maintenance funding shortfall and to improve transportation safety was adopted on Sept. 20 by the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Under the provisions of the ordinance, the fee will only go into effect on the condition that the state Legislature fails to pass a 2017 transportation funding package that provides additional County revenue equal to or greater than $8.1 million annually –the County's share of revenue generated by a $30 VRF – in the first year.

If implemented, the County VRF will be collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in conjunction with state registration fees, starting July 1, 2018. The fee would be $30 per year, or $2.50 per month, for most vehicle owners. The fee for motorcycles/mopeds will be $17 per year. Owners of trailers eligible for permanent registration will pay a one-time fee of $10. For additional fee information, see FAQs.

If implemented, the VRF would generate an estimated $13.5 million in revenue. This revenue would be split 60/40 between the County ($8.1 million) and the cities within the County ($5.4 million) as required by state statute. All funds received by the County would be used only for local maintenance to improve the safety and condition of County roads, bridges and culverts.

Increasing needs, expenses

Timber Road Culvert collapse, Dec. 2016Washington County's road maintenance funding comes primarily from the state gas tax and vehicle fees and the County gas tax, which are not keeping pace with increasing maintenance costs.Fuel sales per registered vehicle have been declining, due to hybrid and electric cars, and fewer miles traveled per vehicle. At the same time, maintenance costs have increased significantly. For example, asphalt paving increased about 370 percent from 2004-2014, according to the ODOT. Other examples: 

  • Bridge construction increased about 200 percent
  • Chip seal emulsion increased about 120 percent
  • Aggregate (base rock) increased about 50 percent 

"We don't have sufficient funds to meeting these increasing costs," Duyck said. "From a safety perspective, we simply can't continue to delay road maintenance any longer without putting travelers at risk." 

If implemented, the County VRF would be collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles in conjunction with state registration fees starting July 1, 2018. The fee would be $30 per year for most vehicles;$17 per year for motorcycles/mopeds;$10 one-time fee for trailers eligible for permanent registration.