Pay to pave: Homeowners ask City of Portland to foot the bill

Multnomah County

Residents want the city to tap into its $62M budget surplus to pave gravel roads

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The drive to Terri Parkin’s home in Errol Heights is marked by a steep hill, deep ruts and countless potholes. It’s a journey she describes as “really dangerous.”

The City of Portland has been struggling to fund the paving of its gravel roads for years. Many homeowners can’t afford the cost of paving a road and the price tag is pricing people out of neighborhoods.

In an effort to fix this years-long problem of unpaved roads, the city has developed so-called Local Improvement Districts or LIDs. This is where they offset some of the cost onto the homeowners based on the square footage of their lot.

City leaders plan to build a new park in Errol Heights and say they’ll start paving the road next spring. The Errol Heights Road Project will cost $9.4 million. The City of Portland, Parks and Recreation and the Bureau of Environmental Services together are putting in $7.7 million. But they want Parkin and her 165 neighboring homeowners to pitch in nearly $2 million for the one-mile stretch of road.

“I’m going to be assessed, supposedly, $32,000 and the neighbor across the street $72,000,” she said. “So we’re all going ‘wait a minute, the city can spend — parks can spend — $12.9 million on a playground across the street but they can’t pave our roads without taking whatever equity we may have in our property?'”

John Brady with the Portland Bureau of Transportation said the city has worked to “make the burden on homeowners as small as possible.” But he added that the city simply can’t afford to pave the more than 50 miles of decades-old gravel roads that still exist within city limits.

“To pave all of them would be prohibitively expensive in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Brady said.

Residents are now pointing to the extra $62 million in the city’s budget to improve infrastructure. Parkin is asking the city to fund the $1.7 million needed to pave her neighborhood and “save the residents the savings they have in their house.”

“The Mayor will release a proposed budget for the Fall BMP soon,” responded Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “Once I have a complete understanding of that proposal and the one-time funds available to allocate this Fall, I will work with my team and my colleagues around budget amendments beyond the budget proposals I have already submitted, such as expanding Portland Street Response.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler is expected to finalize the fall budget next week and City Council will vote on it at the end of October.

For the past few years, PBOT has offered a street gravel service for areas to grate roads and fill in the potholes. But Parkin said the only thing they’ve seen in recent years is the city dropping off bags of gravel for neighbors to take to fill potholes.

“I personally put about $400 a year of my money into filling in the potholes so the road is traversable,” she said.

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