ODOT says highways ‘may not be safe’ this winter due to budget cut

As drivers start moving to more fuel-efficient and fully electric vehicles, they’re using less gas.
Published: Oct. 17, 2023 at 6:32 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - As drivers start moving to more fuel-efficient and fully electric vehicles, they’re using less gas.

While this has a positive impact on the environment, it means less money for the Oregon Department of Transportation which relies on the state’s gas tax for their budget.

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“The gas tax has been such a reliable source of funding for maintenance and operations for ODOT for really, for the last century but we can’t rely on this anymore,” ODOT Spokesperson, Don Hamilton, said.

Hamilton said because of this decline in funding from the tax for their 2023-2025 budget, Oregonians will see impacts on roads and highways, especially during the winter.

“We’re not going to be able to plow the major roads as frequently as we have in the past. People are going to notice this if we get hit by a major storm. There are major roads that we used to plow four times in a day, we’re maybe going to be able to get to those once a day,” he said.

Hamilton said this is because they’re having a tough time filling plow operator positions within ODOT and due to inflation, sand, salt and deicer has become more expensive so they’ll be reducing the amount they’ll apply to state highways.

However, ODOT said they’ll still prioritize routes like I-5, I-84 and I-205.

“We’re going to try to get them filled as quickly as we can as best we can to get these roads cleared as quickly as we can. The roads may not be as safe this winter as they have been in the past,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said drivers will just have to be extra cautious when conditions are dicey.

“During the winter when it’s slick on the roads, all motorists need to take care of themselves. They’re going to need to take extra care because we’re not going to be able to keep the roads maintained like we have in the past,” Hamilton said.

These impacts go beyond the winter season.

They also said drivers can expect to see more graffiti and debris on the highway because they’ll be scaling back those services too. They said they won’t be restriping edge lines on highways like OR 173 from Government Camp to Timberline.

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Hamilton said there are a few alternative funding options that they’ll propose in the 2025 legislative session but he also said they could potentially get money from the state’s general fund.

FOX 12 reached out to Governor Tina Kotek’s office, and she sent this statement:

“Our state highway system is facing a structural funding challenge that legislators will need to address when they take up a transportation package in 2025. Our office is also exploring what options may exist in the immediate. In the meantime, I encourage Oregonians to contact their legislators to encourage them to find long-term solutions that will ensure our state transportation infrastructure is meeting the needs of Oregon families, businesses, and visitors.”