$30 county vehicle registration fee starts July 1

Washington County – A Washington County ordinance passed in 2016 establishing a $30-per-year vehicle registration fee (VRF) for most vehicle owners — the annual cost to register motorcycles and mopeds will be $17 per year — goes into effect this July 1.

The county board of commissioners passed Ordinance 817, which states that the increases are needed in order to offset some maintenance funding shortfalls and to improve transportation safety.

The county projects the VRF to generate $13.5 million in annual revenue with the money being doled out in a 60/40 split — a requirement by state statute — between cities within the county ($5.4 million) and the county itself ($8.1 million).

“Current county road fund revenues derived mainly from gas taxes are insufficient to meet current and future road maintenance, safety and operation needs due to maintenance cost increases, vehicle fuel efficiency increases, and the increasing needs of a growing and aging road system,” the ordinance states.

All funds received by Washington County will be used for local maintenance in order to improve the condition and safety of county bridges, roads, and culverts, according to the county’s website.

Anticipated annual revenue for cities within the county are:
– Hillsboro, $1.6 million
– Beaverton, $1.5 million
– Tigard, $800,000
– Tualatin, $390,000
– Forest Grove, $380,000
– Sherwood, $310,000
– Cornelius, $190,000
– King City, $60,000
– Wilsonville, $40,000
– Banks, Durham, North Plains and Portland, $30,000
– Gaston, $10,000

Washington County road maintenance funding comes from state and county gas taxes, and vehicle fees, which are no longer keeping pace with maintenance costs. Fuel sales are declining per registered vehicle due to hybrid and electric cars, and drivers are traveling fewer miles while the cost of paving roads has increased about 370 percent from 2004-2014, the most recent data available from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Meanwhile, bridge construction increased about 200 percent, chip seal emulsion jumped 120 percent and aggregate base rock rose about 50 percent during the same 10-year period.
A study published by ODOT, titled “Rough Roads Ahead: The Cost of Poor Highway Conditions to Oregon’s Economy,” says restoring deteriorated bridges and pavement costs significantly more than keeping them in good condition.

“(In) Oregon’s export-based economy, creating family-wage jobs relies on a strong multimodal transportation system to efficiently move goods from our farms, forests, and factories to national and international markets,” the study says. “Companies choose to locate and expand in Oregon in part because of our strong transportation system, and natural resource industries, such as agriculture and timber, require good roads to move their products efficiently to markets. As a result, Oregon’s economic vitality is strongly linked to the quality of its transportation system. Deteriorating roads and bridges have major impacts on job creation.”

Washington County’s unemployment rate, as observed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, dipped to 3.3 percent through the end of March 2018.
Oregon’s jobless rate reached an all-time low of 3.8 percent in March — the first time unemployment numbers dropped below 4 percent in the state’s history — and half of Oregon’s 36 counties posted record-low unemployment figures in March as well, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

The ODOT study also says higher transportation costs associated with deteriorating bridges and pavement could reduce future economic growth across the state, possibly resulting in the loss of “100,000 future jobs.”
Additionally, the forecast says Oregon’s cumulative gross domestic product could decrease about $94 billion by 2035 as a direct result of higher transportation costs.
The Portland metro region and coastal communities would be the hardest hit in ODOT’s scenario, and after 20 years of operating at the current level of forecasted funding the state would need to spend $3.4 – $5.2 billion on pavement, as well as $5.4 – $7.2 billion to return “distressed bridges” to the conditions they are in today.

To get an idea of how much asphalt can be restored and bridges repaired with revenue from the new registration fees, the Portland Bureau of Transportation finds that, per mile, preventative maintenance currently costs $68,500, concrete overlays $62,000, and the price tag for major road rehabilitation is $200,000. Reconstruction runs somewhere between $1 million and $2.9 million per mile.


More information:
For more information about the new vehicle registration fees, visit KeepRoadsSafe.org and refer any questions to Washington County Land Use and Transportation at 503-846-6128.
Readers also can send the county questions or concerns via email by visiting this page on the county’s website.

Daniel Pearson

Daniel Pearson holds a bachelors in journalism and an MBA in marketing. He’s a10-time, Oregon SPJ award-winning journalist, a two-time winner of an ADDY (advertising) for copywriting, and a one-time award winner for fiction for the NW Coastal Writer’s Series. Email: rosecitywriter@gmail.com Twitter: @canbywriter