Clackamas County Approves Vehicle Registration Fee

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to approve a countywide vehicle registration fee for $30 per year per passenger vehicle (technically, $60 paid every two years when you renew your vehicle registration.) Motorcycle owners will pay only $15 per year.

Barring any other increases, it would raise your biennial registration fee from $112 to $172. The revenue will be split between the county and cities (based on population) and would go toward maintaining local roads and improving traffic flow and congestion with new capital projects.

Unlike Multnomah and Washington counties, which receives millions in revenue each year from local gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, Clackamas County has no local source for road funding. The fee in Clackamas County is estimated to raise $11 million per year, with about $5.5 million staying in the county’s budget, around $1 million going toward special multi-jurisdictional projects, and the remainder being split among the cities based on population. 

Canby, the county’s seventh-largest city, would receive an estimated $331,281 annually. The two largest cities in Clackamas County, Lake Oswego and Oregon City, would get about $700,000 each, while the smallest, Barlow, would see only $2,724.

The county’s vote, in which Commissioner Paul Savas was the lone dissenter, followed a meeting that was much longer and better-attended than the first hearing two weeks earlier. The comments expressed were largely similar to the first meeting, although there were more of them: Many of those who spoke opposed the new fee.

Sandy resident Susan Drew summed up her views by reading a petition signed by 20 of her neighbors.

Of course, Clackamas County has tried to pass a gas tax, six times. Their most recent attempt was in the 2016 general election. It has always been voted down.

A number of commenters said the issue should go before the voters, including Canby City Councilor Traci Hensley — though she made clear she was speaking only for herself and not in any official capacity.

The fee did have its supporters, however, like Greg Diloreto, of West Linn. He and others expressed the view that this kind of bold action was needed to address the county’s severe transportation needs, and they would support the board’s decision to move forward.

The board, with the exception of Savas, agreed. Commissioner Ken Humberston explained why he supported the ordinance route over another attempt to woo voters.

The fee could go to the voters anyway, if the citizens choose to undertake the petition process and refer it to the ballot. Several commissioners acknowledged this as a risk they were willing to take.

Absent a petition effort, the fee still wouldn’t take effect for at least a few months, according to Assistant Transportation Director Mike Bezner.

“The County needs to develop and sign an agreement with (the Oregon Department of Transportation), covering the collection of the fees and how ODOT will distribute it to the County,” Bezner said in an email. “My best guess is that could take six months.”

If it does go through, Clackamas County has released a list of projects it will consider tackling with its share of the revenue. There are more projects on the list than could be addressed with the available funding, so if it’s passed, county leadership would have to prioritize the most-needed and high-impact items. 

Proposed projects for the Canby area include:

  • Add dual left-turn lanes on southbound Barlow Road at the intersection with Highway 99E.
  • Reconstruct intersection and install northbound left-turn lane and southbound right-turn lane at the intersection of Canby-Marquam Highway and Lone Elder Road.
  • Add paved shoulders to North Holly Street from Territorial Road to the Canby Ferry.
  • Add paved shoulders and turn lanes at major intersections on Township Road from Canby city limits to Central Point Road.

For the complete list, see here.

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