Head of Portland transportation bureau discusses budget cuts

By Elizabeth Castillo (OPB)
Jan. 10, 2024 2 p.m.
Cars and a TriMet bus drive down Southeast Division Street at 157th Avenue in Portland, Oregon, Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

FILE: Cars and a TriMet bus drive down Southeast Division Street at 157th Avenue in Portland, Ore., July 11, 2018.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is facing a roughly $20 million budget deficit. The agency will receive some support from the Portland Clean Energy Fund, but has also been affected by a decline in gas tax and parking revenue.


Millicent Williams, the director of PBOT, says the agency is currently considering services for the chopping block.

“There will potentially also be a series of layoffs that we don’t know yet,” she said. “If we’re cutting programs, we might need to also cut staff.”

Other services that might be affected by cuts could include street sweeping and cleaning. For the funds that are available, Williams said the agency plans to work on maintenance and quick build projects, which emphasize safety.


The agency asked Portlanders to weigh in on what’s important as they were thinking about the deficit. And both issues were top priority for residents. Williams said it’s important to focus on the basics which includes a clean city and livability.

“We do have a $4 billion maintenance backlog,” she said. “Will we be able to address that in a year or five years even? No, it would take 200 years for us to get it down to zero. But it’s a space that’s important.”

Meanwhile, bike safety remains top of mind for Portlanders too. The agency has faced concerns from cyclists about bike lanes in the city.

Last year, Williams addressed concerns about a possible bike lane modification downtown. At the time, she said she moved too fast on the issue.

“That was a challenging moment for me personally and for the bureau, I recognize that it did cause harm,” she said. “I recognize that we won’t always agree on things but the way that we get to resolution is through coming together.”

Millicent Williams spoke to OPB “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller about transportation in Portland. Listen to the full conversation: