Small town streets have become orphans in the mix of transportation funding. While city councils struggle to find money for repairs, the streets deteriorate. And if their deterioration passes a certain point, they must be rebuilt, at even greater cost.
Thus it's a good thing that Warrenton and Astoria are contemplating a local gasoline tax for street repair. Sandra Swain reported on May 23 that Warrenton Mayor Gil Gramson has recommended a 3 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline. Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen told Swain he plans to conduct public forums on the same topic.
It is never easy for civic leaders to raise taxes, but the case for a local gasoline tax contains no loopholes. It comes down to this. No one else will pay to have Astoria's or Warrenton's streets repaired. As Warrenton City Manager Ed Madere told Swain, state gasoline tax money comes late and is used mainly for street lighting and maintenance. So little is left for repairs that Warrenton must accumulate a few year's leftover funds to do anything.
Mayor Gramson would prefer a gasoline tax to a tax levy, which would pay for street repairs out of the property tax. There is persuasive logic to the gasoline tax. The people who drive pay for the streets. Moreover, Astoria and Warrenton may, through the gas tax, gain revenues from tourists who use their town's streets.
There is urgency to the matter. Some routes such as Astoria's Eighth Street and Warrenton's Dolphin Road are badly in need of repair.
Gramson and Van Dusen are doing the right thing by pursuing a gasoline tax. Their city council colleagues should support them in this difficult, but essential challenge.