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Oregon County Law: Duty to Fix Potholes?


This Oregonian article was an interesting lesson in neighbor and government law. It also teaches one not to jump to conclusions, on international affairs, government budgets, or that pothole you have to climb in and out of on your way to and from home every day.

Rock Creek Road may be the pits, but Washington County says it has no legal duty to fill the potholes,” by Dana Tims, Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Excerpt: “… “I was angry,” said Matos. “A lot of people up here have had blown tires. Emergency vehicles can hardly get through. It’s a joke.”

County officials don’t disagree.

… That’s partly because the relatively few people who live along the stretch itself are fine with how things stand now. They have expressed an unwillingness to spend the money it would take to bring the roadway up to full county standards.

That pits them against others in the area, including Matos, who end up using the road on a regular basis.

The argument isn’t a new one. In fact, the issue of who bears the responsibility to maintain the road dates back more than a decade.

In 2002, the county tried to address the problem by approaching residents living along the contested stretch to see if they would cede enough right-of-way to bring the road up to snuff.

“They weren’t willing to do that,” said Anne Madden, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Land Use & Transportation. “And the condition has stayed that way for eight years, with the road just getting worse and worse every year.”

The county considers Rock Creek Road a “local access road.” That means the road is technically public, but the county has no legal duty to take care of it. In fact, state law bars the county from spending public money to repair such roads unless the commissioners declare a state of emergency….” (Link to full Oregonian article.)

If you’re interested in learning about local government, stop by your local law library for some serious research or take a look at these online resources for a birds-eye view of the subject:

1) LII (Cornell University Law School) Local Government Law

2) Association of Oregon Counties

3) Wikipedia Local Government Law

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