Dec 15, 2007

Multnomah County Needs Better Sellwood Bridge Plan

At the Tuesday, Dec. 11, Troutdale City Council meeting, Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler asked us to approve a request to sign an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that would allow the county to ask its voters to approve a $27 increase in vehicle registration fees. The increased fees would be used to pay for renovation or replacement of the Sellwood Bridge. I joined a majority of the City Council by voting against approval of the IGA.

According to ORS 801.401(7), Multnomah County cannot raise the vehicle registration fee for a specific purpose unless it enters into an intergovernmental agreement with ALL overlapping jurisdictions including Troutdale, Gresham, Fairview, Wood Village, Maywood Park, Lake Oswego, Washington and Clackamas Counties, TriMet and Metro.

I agree that the Sellwood Bridge needs to be replaced or fully renovated. However, Wheeler’s plan doesn’t raise enough money to do so. The county intends to raise $100 million in seed money with the increased vehicle registration fees. Wheeler said the county might also be able to get $30 to $50 million in federal matching funds.

However, Wheeler told us the estimated cost to replace/renovate the Sellwood Bridge could be $300 million. Based on my experience with “rough estimates,” the actual cost could be closer to $500 to $600 million. Wheeler’s plan comes up at least $150 million short. Troutdale residents shouldn’t be asked to vote for a Sellwood Bridge replacement plan that has no chance of success due to insufficient revenue to complete the project.

I would be willing to change my vote to “Yes” on the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) if some contingencies for additional funds/solutions were built into the IGA. Some possibilities:

• Passage of a gasoline tax increase by the state Legislature

• Creation of a Regional Bridge Authority, to address bridge maintenance/replacement on a regional level

• Sufficient federal matching funds to complete renovation/replacement

• Financial contribution from Clackamas/Washington counties and the city of Portland

• Use of existing Multnomah County general funds

• Require trucks more than 25,000 pounds gross vehicle weight to pay their share of bridge replacement costs, not just cars and small trucks

• Creation of bicycle license fee

The entire region needs to pay for replacement of the Sellwood Bridge, not just car and small truck vehicle owners within Multnomah County.

1 comment:

johnjj said...

Do not charge all of Multnomah County for a bridge that only a portion uses. I propose we place a toll on the bridge of $0.50. If there is an average of 30,000 crossings a day, at .50 each, the bridge will bring in approx 82 million dollars in tolls in 15 years. That number is based on the usage not growing in the next 15 years. Let people who want to cross pay to cross. It is still cheaper then driving to the next nearest bridge in both gas and time.
Josh Jindrich