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Limited road-repair funds hamper Portland

By Marcel Honoré / mhonore@staradvertiser.com

LAST UPDATED: 07:09 p.m. HST, Feb 13, 2014

2013 March 18 CTY - Roadwork on Punahou St. from the H1 on ramp down to Beretania St. backed up traffic on Monday.Honolulu Star-Advertiser Photo by Krystle Marcellus

As Honolulu appears to finally shift into high gear to rid its roads of widespread potholes, other cities are grappling with how to do more with less as they maintain their streets.

Over the past four years, Portland, Ore., has spent an average of $17 million to maintain its 4,800 lane-miles of road.

"It's not enough," Portland Bureau of Transportation spokes­woman Cheryl Kuck said of Portland's road-repair budget. "This is something that's certainly national, if not global, that every jurisdiction is struggling with: how to meet the needs of an expanding system and maintain and take care of what you already have."


» Click Here | An updated listing of Hawaii's road conditions that are in failed and serious condition. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor.)


» Star-Advertiser: New city data detail the condition of Oahu’s roads and find that nearly 28 percent range from “poor” to “failed.” Also, what materials go into making our roads.

» Hawaii News Now: Tonight, an in-depth look at two City Council districts that need the most work.


» Star-Advertiser: For years, city and state governments put off needed maintenance and repair work on roadways and diverted funds to other priorities. Also, critics wonder if the city can pull off its plan to spend big money on road repairs.

» Hawaii News Now: Will a more expensive asphalt product keep our road repair in place longer than the next heavy rain?


For nine days the Star-Advertiser will print full-page maps of each City Council district highlighting road conditions in each area.

Honolulu, by contrast, has just over 3,500 lane-miles of road and proposes spending $150 million in each of the next five years.

Similar to Honolulu, Portland completed a citywide survey of its road conditions last year and is using new computer software to help determine its roadwork priorities.

Even with those steps, Portland road maintenance officials must compete for limited city budget dollars. Those dollars often go to other projects that get more public visibility instead of the more basic, everyday functions like roadwork that help keep cities going, Kuck said.

"We have a number of competing needs" for those dollars, such as new bike lanes and pedestrian paths, she said.

The Portland transportation bureau was aware of Hono­lulu's proposed nine-figure push for annual street work because its interim director recently visited Oahu, she added. The department will be watching Hono­lulu closely to see how the road maintenance effort plays out, Kuck added.

"We'd like one of those," Kuck said, referring to Hono­lulu's proposed annual budget.

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FluidMotion wrote:
I'll tell you how the road work will play out. We will spend 7x's more, for less miles, and the work will be so inferior that the roads will be pocked with potholes a year from now. We will also try and tell you how our moderate climate is much worse than Portland's constant rain and often freezing weather conditions.
on March 24,2013 | 02:27AM
mellishi wrote:
...ditto !
on March 24,2013 | 06:45AM
OldDiver wrote:
It would be great if the StarAdvertiser could put out a FAQ on road repair. Every comment here is based on speculation an guess work based on ignorance of the facts.
on March 24,2013 | 03:51PM
1local wrote:
get rid of unions - get really competitive bidding from non-union companies... implement road maintenance warranties. eliminate manhole raising as this generates pavement degradation
on March 24,2013 | 08:51AM
bender wrote:
I really fail to see why this activle is in our Hawaii newspaper under the banner of "local news". But it does prove one thing, we have allocate more in road repair funds than Portland but still end up with poorly maintained roads.
on March 24,2013 | 06:04AM
OldDiver wrote:
How do you know this? The article doesn't mention how much Portland needs to maintain it's roads.
on March 24,2013 | 03:47PM
palani wrote:
"We have a number of competing needs" for those dollars, such as new bike lanes and pedestrian paths..."

Yeah, and they also have a great,underused, very expensive rail system. From governing.com, Portland Struggles to Remain a Leader in Public Transit:

"Reduced revenue and federal funding, combined with unsustainable employee costs, are making it difficult for the Oregon city to stay on top."

To see our future after rail, look to Portland.

on March 24,2013 | 06:08AM
kahuku01 wrote:
It's quite evident that comparing another city or state weather conditions, asphalt mixture, road surfacing procedures to Hawaii 's should help and improve the overall process for resurfacing and repairing potholes. Is this 3,500 lane miles of road for Honolulu or Oahu? If this 3,500 lane miles of road is for Oahu than it becomes a difficult situation because the state and city have jurisdiction for designated roadways on Oahu. They have different budgets designated for road repairs and it becomes an annoying situation in identifying who is responsible for the repairs especially when the roadways have been neglected for a long period of time. The problem with the state and city is that the tax on every gallon of gas that is designated for road repairs are not being used for what it is designated for and the roads continue to crumble while the money is used for other projects. Another problem with the city is that certain roadways on Oahu are scheduled for resurfacing every 3 to 5 years whether it's full of potholes or not while other roadways that require resurfacing are neglected for up to 10, 20 or 30 years. It's just a losing battle when tax payers have to deal with incompetent politicians.
on March 24,2013 | 06:10AM
mellishi wrote:
...ditto again!
on March 24,2013 | 06:47AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
"Over the past four years, Portland, Ore., has spent an average of $17 million to maintain its 4,800 lane-miles of road. Honolulu, by contrast, has just over 3,500 lane-miles of road and proposes spending $150 million in each of the next five years."

What this story leaves out is that even as they spend far less money than we do in an environment that sees hot days, freezing weather and far more rain than Oahu, they good roads AND pedestrian and bike friendly city, unlike the death trap here on Oahu.

on March 24,2013 | 07:36AM
Wazdat wrote:
shift into high gear in honolulu ? More like finally WAKING UP to HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY.
on March 24,2013 | 07:50AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Portland is another city that had its road maintenance hijacked by a train. At least their train was on the ground instead of up oin the sky and is actually light rather than heavy rail. Oh yeah, it actually goes places people need to get to.
on March 24,2013 | 08:12AM
engineersoldier wrote:
SA, what is the point of writing about Portland's problems? Virtually, every city, county and state is short of funds to do a lot of things. I want the SA, our local paper, to concentrate on our own problems.
on March 24,2013 | 08:32AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Here's something your article left out:

"The audit will scold the bureau and City Council for committing to new capital projects—including $55 million for the Milwaukie light-rail extension—while not setting aside enough money for basic road upkeep. One PBOT official who has read a draft of the audit says it describes recent spending as “buying a widescreen TV while the roof is leaking.”

on March 24,2013 | 08:57AM
localguy wrote:
Nei bureaucrats will have to quit kowtowing to electrical car owners and special interest groups, come up with a way to bill them for their "Fair Share" of road maintenance costs. I would recommend tracking their yearly mileage, checked during annual safety inspections, send them a bill for say, $.05 - .10 cents per mile driven. Drive 10k miles, you could pay between $500 - $1,000 a year towards maintenance costs. A very small price to pay since using solar panels to recharge your car means you pay only the HECO connection fee, under $25 per month. Quit whining EV owners, you know you have to pay, just do it.
on March 24,2013 | 09:32AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
That is exactly the argument the politicians and city government want us to have. They want us to pick other groups and get them to raise their taxes, whether it's electric car owners, hybrids, "big pickup trucks," scooters or bicycles.

Getting electric car owners (or whatever vehicle *you* don't drive) to pay more isn't going to address the underlying problem is shoddy work and no accountability
on March 24,2013 | 10:12AM
localguy wrote:
Kalaheo1 - No it won't fix the 4th world road maintenance practice we have. But it will fairly place the cost on every driver. We should not be subsidizing EV owners. Everyone pays their fair share.
on March 24,2013 | 10:50PM
Maleka50 wrote:
As a resident of Portland for nearly 25 years....I can honestly say the roads here are pretty bad. The last mayor spent all the city's transportation money on these bloody bike paths and the Portland Streetcar (with a little help from the Feds). We also have roads in some areas that have NEVER been paved since Portland was incorporated as a city way back. Now....to get these gravel roads.. paved the residents along these streets will have to pony up the bucks to make that dream come true. Honolulu definitely surpasses Portland when it comes to road construction.
on March 24,2013 | 11:29AM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 24,2013 | 12:28PM
localguy wrote:
We have a pot hole crew, called the city council. All they are good for is shoveling you know what around as fast as they can.
on March 24,2013 | 10:51PM
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