Voters will decide if better roads are worth $30 in Washington County

Voters will decide if better roads are worth $30 in Washington County »Play Video
More fuel-efficient cars means less gas tax money into county coffers, so Washington County commissioners will ask voters in November to approve a $30-a-year fee for roads.

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Voters in Washington County will decide in November if they want drivers to pay an extra $30 per year to improve and maintain the roads.

If approved, every car, truck and SUV owner would pay a $30 annual fee in addition to state registration and gas taxes.

County commissioners said at Tuesday's meeting that they don’t have enough money anymore to maintain roads and bridges to keep them safe. 

And there's an unlikely culprit: fuel-efficient cars.

Drivers are pumping less gas and paying less gas taxes.

That means Washington County has less money in its road repair budget, which mostly comes from a share of state gas tax and registration fees.

"We have vehicles on the road today that pay no gas tax," said Martha Moyer, who spoke at the meeting in favor of the fee. "It's great for the atmosphere. It's not great for our roads."

Oregon's gas tax is a fixed fee per gallon and does not change based on the price of gasoline.

Washington County would raise $12 million if the plan passes, according to officials.

Commissioners pledged the money would exclusively pay for road repairs, like filling potholes. It would not pay for general transportation projects, such as light rail, or capital projects, such as building new roads.

Commissioners debated whether to ask voters for a $43 fee, the maximum allowed under state law, but ended up deciding the $30 amount.

Reaction was split down the middle during the board's public comment session.

"Make do with what you have," said one man, speaking against the fee.

"I have grand kids," said another man, who supported it. "I'd like to see them have nice, comfortable roads."