Due to declining gas tax revenue, the Oregon Department of Transportation is cutting its budget. Those reductions will mean less snowplowing of secondary roads this winter.
The road to Mount Bachelor from Bend is among those lower volume roads that will likely receive less plowing and winter maintenance.
ODOT is reducing budgets 5% across the board due to declining gas tax revenues. The reductions are deeper in winter road maintenance, where 15% budget cuts are being made due to inflation and reduced buying power.
“Less plowing. Less folks on the road. Less emergency response availability. Also less re-striping of fog lines on the side of the road — the white line on the edge of the roads,” said Kacey Davey, ODOT public information officer.
ODOT says with smaller budgets for staff and materials needed to plow, sand and de-ice, the potential for traffic jams and crashes increases. Incidents will take longer to clear.
People we found making early turns in the new snow on Mount Bachelor agree with that prediction.
“I think that’s going to be a safety issue. My sense is you’ll not reduce traffic. I think they’ll be just as many people coming up,” said Joe McCloughlin, visiting from Corvallis. “I’ve seen it in the past, there’s a lot of unprepared folks in the first place and with more snow on the road in think it’s going to be much more dangerous.”
In its Level of Service Reduction statement, ODOT says some roads that were previously plowed up to four times per day may only be plowed once per day, if at all.
“This is one of my least favorite mountain roads to drive to go skiing,” said Matt Colton of Bend. “You get up to that Wanoga… up to those sno-parks and it’s a free-for-all. People start speeding so they can get their first little chair.”
“We need drivers’ help this winter and ask that drivers be extra prepared this winter if they plan to drive in the snow and ice, even more than you have been in the past,” Davey said.
ODOT says motorists should prepare for the possibility of extended delays, closures and more chain restrictions with the reduced levels of winter road maintenance.
More Oregonians driving hybrid and electric vehicles that don’t pay gas taxes are among the reasons for declining revenues. Possible fixes to the declining revenues that are being considered include a pay-per-mile fee and increases in fuel taxes to match inflation.