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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Steve Novick—Like His Predecessors—Is Scaling up a Bid for More Transportation Cash

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 5:20 PM


Commissioner Steve Novick says it's time for a reboot.

While there's been plenty of effort in recent years to find new money for Portland's underfunded transportation bureau, Novick's called reporters this afternoon to tout the latest push.

That includes a recent phone survey asking voters where they favor putting transportation dollars—though results aren't yet available. And Novick emphasized a new 26-member "transportation needs funding advisory committee" he's convened for the express purpose of finding and spending new money—a development first reported by

"They are going to help us have an animated conversation with the community over the next several months about what we need to raise money for and how we're gonna raise it," Novick says.

The committee includes a fair amount of overlap with PBOT's Budget Advisory Committee, which has been chewing over the problem of fresh money for years. Business leaders, transportation activists, freight representatives, community groups and city officials all have a seat at the table.

Portland's transportation bureau has long relied on gas taxes and parking fees, revenue that's been unable to compete with the rising costs of maintenance and fresh infrastructure projects. Novick's began banging the drum for fresh funding almost as soon as Mayor Charlie Hales named him the city's transportation commissioner in June. The commissioner and Hales even made a show of asking Santa for $1.3 billion in project funding late last year.

But Novick's been consistently coy on what he thinks our best options for funding are. And he wasn't offering any more ideas today.

"We're pretty open about it," he said, noting a mechanism could come out of council or from a public vote. One thing the commissioner doesn't think will fly: A gas tax increase, which he said "draws a visceral negative reaction."

Don't look for much insight about the source of new money from the new telephone survey—the city didn't ask. Instead, officials are more concerned with what projects Portlanders want emphasized.

"A chunk of money we raise is going to have to go to basic maintenance," Novick conceded. Where the rest goes—if the city gets it at all—will be a discussion for coming months.


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