By Virginia Rice
Eugene, Ore.-Decisions made several years ago by Trainsong residents and city officials has now lead the deterioration of street conditions and the current residents will have to pay for it.
Residents of the Trainsong neighborhood in Eugene are sick of the street conditions. “If you drive a car down these roads, it’s terrible. I see roads getting fixed all the time all over the place, and I’ve never seen it happen here,” says Trainsong resident Christopher Kulas. The reality is that the city is just acting accordingly with a decision Trainsong homeowners made several years ago. “Trainsong neighborhood is fairly old. Way back when those houses were built, people didn’t care to have a sophisticated system in front of their houses. One of the reasons why houses are less expensive is because they haven’t carried that cost,” said City of Eugene neighborhood planner Rene Kane. Trainsong Neighborhood Association members say that the cost to install streets to city standards would be more than most homeowners could afford in this economical time. “6 years ago the city required Trainsong homeowners to get tapped into the city water system. At that point a lot of homes that had been owned forever got sold, a lot of people got displaced, it turned into a renter-rentee situation. It posed a huge financial challenge for people,” said Nicole Sharette, President of the Trainsong Neighborhood Association.
When walking through the Trainsong neighborhood one will notice all the missing factors compared to normal Eugene streets: storm drains, street lights, sidewalks, bike paths, dead end signs and more. While residents are fed up with the lack of safety the city has taken notice. “From what I can see we have a five year plan, basically the squeakiest wheels get the grease. We haven’t done that enough in the past. We want the roads to be better and safer to walk down,” said Jesse Lohrke, member of the Trainsong Neighborhood Association. However the city can only offset so much of the cost. In 2008 the estimated backlog of needed repair work was $173 million for the city of Eugene, and with only $18.6 million worth of street preservation since 2002 the city has to focus elsewhere according to the public works website.
“If somebody wants to improve a street and bring it up to a full city standard, it’s accomplished by a poll petition. You have adjoining property owners in favor of such an improvement. If you have 51% majority, the city will come in and do a design, have the street brought up and constructed to city standards and assess (charge) the adjacent property owners,” said Damon Joyner, Eugene City Works employee. That amount is far from the range of most Trainsong residents though because of the renter-rentee situation. “In order for us to have improved roads, each property owner would have to dish out $9,000 for each house to have sidewalks and improved roads,” said Sharette. “If our taxes went up then we would have to raise our rent and we know other people would raise the rent,” said Trainsong property owner Deborah Sherman. “Everybody has got the right to live somewhere, and that happened to where you have to raise the rent on them, in this economical time, they aren’t even going to be able to afford to live there.” For now, the decision is in the property owners hands