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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Commissioner Novick fills pothole on NW 12th and Everett, demonstrating need for heavy trucks to pay their fair share for road maintenance

One of the maintenance teams in the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) let me tag along on their shift this morning to fill the 7,700th pothole of the fiscal year at NW 12th and Everett. 

When you reach 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, you’re a lock for the Hall of Fame. I believe that our maintenance workers deserve a similar honor for the large number of potholes they fill in their careers at PBOT. The crew leader for the maintenance team I joined today, Cory Long, estimates that he has filled 20,000 potholes in his 17 years with PBOT. Based on Cory’s calculations, the utility workers I joined today would almost all be inducted into the “Pothole Hall of Fame”—Billy Spires with 13,200 potholes in 11 years; Nills Thornberg with 6,600 potholes in 5.5 years; and Jeff Peterson with 3,600 potholes in 3 years. Mark Bartholomew has only been with PBOT for 6 months, but he’s probably filled a few hundred himself.

I am so grateful for the hard work all of our maintenance teams do every day, because even without the necessary resources to conduct preventive maintenance and keep every street in “good condition,” these teams keep our city running with the resources available. We’d have even greater cause for celebration if we had the resources to do more preventive maintenance and have fewer potholes to fill.

Portland’s temporary local fuels tax, if passed by the voter’s in May, will not include a ten-cent diesel tax on vehicles over 26,000 pounds. The decision not to apply the diesel tax to heavy trucks was based on a concern that heavy trucks, with fuel tanks averaging between 120-300 gallons, would bypass Portland’s only truck stop. A heavy vehicle tax ensures that heavy trucks pay their corresponding fair share of a potential 10-cent temporary fuels tax.

The goal of the heavy vehicle tax is to ensure that heavy truck users, like others who depend on our roads, will help pay for the cost of street maintenance. Streets in poor and very poor condition, like the section of NW Everett with the potholes we filled this morning, are much more expensive to fix than to maintain. Thus it is a better use of public resources to keep streets in good condition.

The Bureau of Transportation started the Back to Basics program in 2013, with the goal of maintaining more than 100 lane miles of City streets each year. Since 2013, PBOT has met or exceeded that maintenance goal.

At the event this morning Maintenance Operations Group Manager Suzanne Kahn said, “This year, we are once again on pace to meet our Back to Basics goal. To date, we have successfully treated 94 miles of streets. The fact that we are so close to the finish line, despite having experienced one of the wettest winters in a long time, is a real testament to the work of our maintenance crews.”