City Government, Creswell

Transportation fee up for Creswell council vote

CRESWELL — The City of Creswell may soon treat transportation like a utility by implementing a monthly fee for the upkeep and improvement of its transportation systems.

The proposed transportation fee will be put to the city council for a vote at the April 10 council meeting. It will be up to the city council to approve the fee and its parameters based on public feedback. 

“I do believe that a Transportation Utility Fee is the best long-term solution to maintain and build the roads that we need in Creswell,” said Dave Stram, mayor. “As our roads continue to deteriorate, we have raised exactly zero dollars to fix them. A Transportation Utility Fee in Creswell is fair – every property that receives city water will pay a monthly amount.” 

Stram said he anticipates the Transportation Utility Fee (TUF) moving forward, and if the council does approve it, residents could be paying a fee as soon as the end of this year. 

Because the use of the transportation system is not metered like electricity or water, residents and businesses are charged a fee based on their use of the transportation system, rather than being charged property taxes. If passed, the rate for a single-family residence in Creswell will be $4 per month. Other entities, such as schools, gas stations, and churches may pay more depending on the amount of traffic they generate.

So, if you use the roads more, you’ll pay more. 

“Businesses that generate more traffic will ultimately pay more for their usage,” city finance director James Piper said. 

Still, the City has implemented a TUF exception program: If you don’t own a vehicle, are unemployed, or own a vacant lot, you may apply to have the fee waived. 

“This funding will be crucial moving forward to support the upkeep of our roads,” Piper said. 

Sealing cracks in pavement, repairing roads, or even improvements to bicycle and pedestrian pathways could be covered by the fee, effectively filling a funding gap needed to make these investments, Stram said.

In 2019, the City completed a 20-year Transportation System Master Plan, showing a long list of road projects, totaling $26 million to complete. It also highlighted a different challenge, an annual road funding gap of $255,000. 

Each year, the City’s road maintenance and construction is supported by the state gas tax, vehicle registration fees, and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant funds. Once routine maintenance is deducted from that funding, only $180,000 per year is saved to fix the major road projects outlined in the Transportation System Master Plan.

“With the savings we have, we can do one major street project every six years,” Stram said. “But as the (roads) consultant pointed out, our roads are deteriorating at a much faster pace. Time is our enemy.” 

And whether people in Creswell are driving, walking, cycling or taking the bus, everyone benefits from a high-quality transportation system, Stram said. 

This fee has long been in the works. In 2020, the city council studied the idea of a gas tax; in 2021 that idea was determined to be too short term of a solution and in 2022 a roads ad-hoc committee was formed, including city councilors and members of the community, to find a new funding mechanism for the road maintenance in Creswell. 

The ad-hoc committee considered different design mechanisms: a local improvement district, street bonds, and a transportation utility fee. Ultimately, it recommended the City to enact a local improvement district for specific road projects and to establish a city-wide transportation utility fee. 

“We’re looking at the big picture,” Stram said. “I envision over the next 10-20 years we’ll have a much improved transportation system in Creswell. We’ll have new roads and new sidewalks for people to ride their bicycles.” 

Many cities already have a TUF in place – Philomath charges $8 per month on a single-family residence, Coburg charges $7, Veneta charges $7, Myrtle Creek charges $4. 

Included in the TUF ordinance is an evaluation system, requiring that the Water Rate Advisory Committee, staffed by three city councilors and three citizens, review the TUF fee annually for its effectiveness and overall cost. 

If passed, the first road to be repaired? 2nd Street, near the fire station. 

The city council will be voting on the TUF ordinance during the April 10 city council meeting, and are inviting members of the public to speak on the item during public comment. 

“It’s another service we’re providing to the families that live here,” Piper said. “And with this funding in place, we can start prioritizing those big projects.”