Hales plans to shift focus of city transportation budget

Hales plans to shift focus of city transportation budget »Play Video
Charlie Hales said he plans to shift the focus of Portland's transportation budget from bike projects to road repairs. (KATU photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland’s Mayor-elect Charlie Hales said he’s ready to hit the ground running when he takes office next year.

Hales said he’ll begin to sit in on city budget meetings starting Tuesday so he can get up to speed on the budget process and decide which issues he’ll tackle first.

“I think it’s going to be a real adult and orderly transition process which I think people are ready for,” said Hales.

One big change Portlanders can expect: Bike projects will take a back seat to road repairs in Hales’ administration. Hales said bike projects are important, but the city has ignored road maintenance for too long.

“We do still want to keep building choices for people to move around the city, but job one has to be maintaining the streets that we have better than we have been doing,” said Hales.

He wants Portland’s 60 miles of unpaved streets covered as soon as possible before there are any more bike projects.

“We have a lot of potholes, a lot of streets with cracks that need repair, so my transportation budget will prioritize that basic maintenance first before we do anything else.”

Hales also said he expects to rethink the city’s stance on the controversial Columbia River Crossing project. Outgoing Mayor Sam Adams wanted a new bridge across the Columbia River to favor alternative transportation. Hales said he plans to steer the city’s priorities toward interstate commerce.

“We’re going to look at a way to move forward on a version of that project that makes sense and fits our values, and that we can actually build. Because we’ve been planning this way too long. And if we’re going to build something, it’s time to start.”

Hales said he plans to help the city’s budget process by keeping all of the city’s bureaus under his control for the first three months of his administration. That way, all of the City Council members will finish the budgets before knowing which bureaus they will oversee.

“When I take all the bureaus, we’re going to have the whole council do the budget together and in some cases start with a blank piece of paper,” he said.

Hales said that will mean less bickering and political battles before the budgets are finalized.