Potholes of Indifference

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 @ 10:53PM

March 20, 2015 ~ By Karen Bowerman, City Councilor, City of Lake Oswego

I have been known to vote “no” on City Council proposals that I feel should be taken more slowly so we can put first things first.

Last night at the Budget Committee I voted “no,” a.k.a. “wait,” on reserving more dollars now for a maintenance center. That vote reflects my current priorities – priority for street repairs above the maintenance center.

More money for streets, you say?  Yes! Even though the City is spending more this year on street repairs than previously, dollars spent are not the measure of results achieved. Condition of the streets is the measure of results. Results to date are unacceptable.

First, the condition of Lake Oswego streets continues its serious decline. There is an objective measure called Pavement Condition Index or PCI on a scale of 0 to 100 (100 is a new road). In 2004 Lake Oswego’s average PCI was 75, but then in 2007 it fell to 69 and in 2013 when the last measure was taken, it was 65. A decline of ten points in ten years! Not only does it mean that the streets are in considerably worse shape, but also it becomes increasingly costly to improve their condition.

Second, not only has Lake Oswego’s actual PCI fallen, but the official goal has been adjusted downward too. Today’s goal is to reach an average PCI of 70, but ten years ago, the goal was to reach an average PCI of 80. Another decline of ten points in ten years!

Third, many residents believe the current condition of Lake Oswego streets infringes on livability of the city. As she watched this week’s Budget Committee meeting one person wrote me, “I so agree with you on the condition of our roads. I am on a rehab program, walking 2+ miles every day.  However I cannot use my own street to walk because of potholes, so I have to get into my car each day and drive to the Westlake neighborhood to walk. I am not asking for special treatment – just a basic service citizens expect.”

Another resident expressed his concern about driving a particular road going to his home if a pedestrian or bicyclist, or another car, came the opposite direction because he would be forced off the road and into potholes. These concerns are becoming more common and people care because this important measure of livability is declining.

We can’t say that it’s LOTWP water pipe being installed that has driven down PCI. Why? Staff points out that the PCI is taken only once every three years, and the last measure was in July 2013 before the laying of pipe and steel trench patches began taking a toll on roads that is not yet counted into the objective measures of street condition.

Building a maintenance center, constructing Boones Ferry Road improvements, designing a new police and 911 communications center, laying pipe for the Lake Oswego Tigard Water Partnership, creating the North Anchor and improving our city streets are large projects being done simultaneously with few “pots” of funds.  All of those projects are important, but because funds are limited as always, votes indicate our priority.

Accomplishing big things with tax dollars sometimes calls for restraint. It’s time for restraint in other appropriate areas so we can take care of our streets, thereby putting first things first.

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Categories: Issues