Washington County adopts conditional vehicle registration fee

HILLSBORO, Ore. – Washington County residents might be forced to pay a brand new $30 annual vehicle registration fee, thanks to an ordinance adopted during tonight's Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting. 
Under the provisions of the ordinance, the County VRF will go into effect if the state legislature fails to pass a 2017 transportation funding package that provides additional county revenue equal to or greater than $8.1 million annually in the first year. 
If implemented, the County VRF will be collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in conjunction with state registration fees, starting July 1, 2018. 
The fee would be $30 per year, or $2.50 per month, for most vehicle owners. The fee for motorcycles/mopeds will be $17 per year. Owners of trailers eligible for permanent registration will pay a one-time fee of $10. 
The fee would be intended to offset some of a local maintenance funding shortfall and to improve transportation safety, said county officials in a news release. 
Ordinance 817 was unanimously approved following a public hearing. 
Safety was the biggest concern expressed by supporters. The county has had to defer preventive maintenance and repairs, which has created safety issues on many roads. Examples include the collapse of aging culverts on both Timber and Beef Bend roads in December. The Timber Road culvert collapsed minutes after a school bus drove over it. 
Washington County's road maintenance funding comes primarily from the state's gas tax and vehicle fees and the county's gas tax, which are not keeping pace with increasing maintenance costs, the county said. Fuel sales per registered vehicle have been declining, due to hybrid and electric cars, and fewer miles traveled per vehicle. At the same time, maintenance costs have increased significantly. 
The maintenance funding shortfall has impacted the condition of the county's roads, bridges and culverts. An estimated $4 million per year is needed to properly maintain the county's pavement. Fifty-four culverts need replacing and 81 bridges are deficient – 14 of which are weight-limited – for a total estimated repair or replacement cost of $126.5 million. 
The $30 VRF will generate an estimated $13.5 million in revenue. This revenue would be split 60/40 between the county and cities within the county as required by state statute. 
All funds received by the County would be used only for local maintenance to improve the safety and condition of County roads, bridges and culverts. 


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