The city of North Bend has a unique opportunity to get funding for street repairs, if the community will support the effort.
Ralph Dunham, the city’s public works director, said when Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, it included funding for infrastructure projects in cities and counties around the country. He said Congress is working on distributing the funding now, and North Bend could really use a share.
“They are looking to help everywhere,” Dunham said.
What he and the city needs is for local residents to reach out to Congressman Peter DeFazio and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to let them know North Bend should be included in the funding.
And when it comes to roads, North Bend does need some help.
Dunham explained, the city receives approximately $220,000 a year from federal and state gas taxes to help with road funding. While that money is appreciated, it just doesn’t go very far.
Dunham explained 70 percent of the city’s roads were built in the 1950s and ’60s. With normal traffic, a road is designed to last 35 to 40 years. High-traffic roads generally last 15 to 20 years.
“Even with good paving techniques, old age takes over,” Dunham said. “Some of the streets, you lose the surface, so you end up with half the asphalt basically gone after 40 years.”
Dunham said the gas tax funds will repair about 1,200 feet or around a quarter mile of streets every year. With no new funding, that puts the city’s streets on cycle of being replaced every 80 years.
Dunham said long-term the city needs to find a new funding source for street repairs, but for now the American Rescue Plan, which has already been approved by Congress and has funding available, could be the answer.
“We have an opportunity at this point,” Dunham said. “We have a list of streets that are poor to very poor, a list of a little over two miles that are currently partly funded or unfunded.”
Dunham said the city hopes to receive around $2 million to repair the worst streets, a move that could help close the gap of needed repairs.
Dunham said repairing streets is costly for several reasons. First, it has just gotten more expensive to hire companies to tear down and replace roads. Secondly, as North Bend’s streets age, so does its underground water and wastewater infrastructure. In most cases, the city is replacing the underground piping as it repairs roads.
“We don’t want to go in and pave it and go in there and have to dig it up 10 years later for utilities,” Dunham explained.
The third aspect in North Bend is since most of the roads are very old, few have sidewalk ramps that meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore, any time a major repair is made, the city must also upgrade sidewalks.
“About 20 percent of our street money is going to replace those ramps,” Dunham said.
Dunham said with funding available, he is hopeful city residents will reach out to the elected officials.
“We’re looking for community support to let Mr. DeFazio know, yes we have bad roads and could use some more funding,” Dunham said. “We’re trying to get our poor and very poor roads into good condition.”
Dunham said the city is always looking for funding sources that don’t hurt local residents. Finding money for street repairs is very difficult, though.
“There’s a lot of money out there for different things, but streets are one of those it’s very difficult to get grants for,” Dunham said. “We have this opportunity through Congressman DeFazio to do something about it.”
DeFazio can be emailed through his website - https://defazio.house.gov/. Letters can be mailed to his Washington, DC office at 2134 Rayburn Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.
Wyden can be emailed through his website - https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact. Letters can be mailed to 221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C., 20510.
Merkley can be emailed through his website - https://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact. Letters can be mailed to 531 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.