Fixing Springfield's streets.
Byline: The Register-Guard
The city of Springfield takes modest pride in doing things differently than its bigger neighbor to the west, but some municipal challenges are the same for any city - and street repair is among them. The Springfield City Council is investigating options for dealing with a growing backlog of street repair projects. It should study how Eugene tackled the same problem with a successful pair of bond proposals.
Springfield's backlog of street repair projects has grown to nearly $30 million, with 51 percent of the city's streets rated as being in poor condition. Such backlogs grow at an accelerated rate - the longer repairs are delayed, the more expensive they become. Eugene was in the same predicament a decade ago, with a ballooning backlog of $170 million in road repair projects.
In 2008, Eugene placed a $35.9 million bond measure on the ballot. One notable feature of the proposal was that it listed exactly which road repair projects would be funded with the money. Another was that the bonds did not create long-term debt for the city - they were a type that might be called pay-as-you-go bonds that allowed the city to borrow money at the start of the spring construction season and repay it when people paid their property taxes in the fall. Voters approved the measure, 57 percent to 43 percent.
In 2012, Eugene went back to the voters with a second bond measure. By this time, people could compare the list of projects that had been promised to the list of those that had been completed. Not only did the two lists match up, but lower-than-expected costs allowed the city to fix more streets than had been promised. The exercise in accountability paid off - voters approved the second bond measure, 64 percent to 36 percent.
Springfield is contemplating bond issues of up to $30 million, to be repaid over a 30-year period. There may be advantages to long-term financing, but Eugene's method of avoiding debt is appealing. And by presenting a specific list of projects and then carrying through, Eugene has gained invaluable credibility with voters. In this instance, Springfield could profit from looking to its neighbor as a model.