Adams: Unpaved streets 'embarrassing;' polling public

Adams: Unpaved streets 'embarrassing;' polling public »Play Video
Mayor Sam Adams says the city of Portland has 65 miles of unpaved roads.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Mayor Sam Adams says the city has 65 miles of unpaved roads and he's asking for feedback from residents on how to change that.

City Council will begin considering options early next week and Adams wants residents to go to Facebook to vote on a solution.

Portland has about three times the number of gravel and dirt roads than many other cities its size, or larger, like Seattle.

"It's embarrassing that we have 65 miles of dirt roads," Adams said Monday.

He is proposing a $100 million project. It could cost that much if all the homeowners around unpaved roads go for that plan. While the city may front the money for improvements, it's the homeowners who will eventually foot the bill.

Many people living along unpaved roads in Portland say they are ready for change.

"My car is always dirty, whether it's in the winter or summer. I've had the undercarriage of my car come loose," said Portland resident Dorie Leeper. "We all pay taxes, we should all have the benefit of having paved roads."

But Adams says that’s a major misconception. Areas like the Cully neighborhood, where many problem roads exist, were annexed into city limits after the 1950s and after other property owners in the city already paid for paved roads.

It's why now only those homeowners impacted by road improvements would be responsible for the cost with new financing options the city is considering.

"So we have to make up for bad policy in the past, and I want to provide folks with lower cost options to at least get out of the mud," Adams said.

A classic paved street, with sidewalks, curbs and storm-water drains would cost an estimated $300 per household, per month for 20 years. So the city is considering a cheaper option: Pave right down the middle, but leave gravel on both sides. That would cost an estimated $60 a month instead.

Some homeowners say they are happy with their gravel roads. So even if City Council approves the option to pave a road just in the middle, neighborhoods can decide to pay nothing and not get any improvements.

Adams is also working to try and come up with a way for low or fixed income people, like seniors, to be able to defer the payments until the property is sold.

After Labor Day there will be public hearings on the issue.