By MICHAEL KALINSKIPosted October 09, 2018 09:30:54PORTLAND, Ore.
(AP) Drivers on the state’s main interstate, including Interstate 5, have already spent more than $3 billion repairing the damage from an April snowstorm that caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage across the region and caused more than a dozen deaths.
Portland State University’s Dr. Mark Schmitt, who has been leading the state and local efforts to repair the roadways, said he hopes that, by the end of the year, the cost will be well in excess of the $3.6 billion in repairs that were ordered during the snowstorm.
The state and city of Portland spent $1.4 billion on road repairs during the storm, which also damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and homes, including schools and churches.
The city spent $5 billion repairing a stretch of Interstate 5 from its downtown to its downtown-only neighborhood, but it still needs $1 billion more, Schmitt said.
He said he expects that figure will be about $3 million a day, or about the same as it was before the storm.
“I think it’s a matter of when and not if we’re going to have to have a much more significant repair and rebuilding effort, but we’re certainly going to be there in the interim,” he said.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said the city is also looking to add a fourth lane to Interstate 5 and add some street lights.
He has asked for a grant of $20 million to begin a feasibility study, but has yet to receive the money.
The road repairs are a key part of a broader effort to rebuild the region after years of economic decline.
A report released last month by the state Department of Transportation showed the region has lost more than 200,000 jobs since 2008.
“Portland is the number one employer in Oregon.
But the state is in the middle of a huge rebuilding effort,” said Hales, who is running for governor.
“I think that the people of Oregon deserve to know that they’re getting a fair shake.”
The state is working with the federal government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create an infrastructure trust fund to help local governments and private firms create money to help rebuild and restore roads and other infrastructure.
The federal government has pledged to provide up to $1 trillion in stimulus money.
Federal money has already been earmarked for the region.
The Department of Homeland Security said last month it will provide up $2.5 billion for projects to help pay for roads and bridges.
The governor also announced a $300 million grant for a highway-recovery program.
The state’s transportation director, Mike McKeon, said the grant will be awarded over a period of four years to local governments.
The grant will help fund a pilot project to identify ways to use the grant money to fix and restore streets and bridges, which will then be matched with federal money.
McKeon said the grants will be used to pay for highway repair projects for low-income neighborhoods.
“We know that this is a very expensive undertaking, but this is our best chance to actually see if it can be done and do it safely,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“And if it’s safe, then hopefully, this can be replicated elsewhere in the country.”
The city and state are also considering increasing the number of lanes on I-5 from four to six lanes.
Schmitt suggested that would help reduce traffic and congestion on the interstate.
“The number of people driving through Portland, I think, is actually a pretty high number,” he explained.
“And it’s the number that we have to work with.”
Portland’s mayor, Michael Jackson, has said he wants to see all three lanes in place by the beginning of next year.