I think the Sellwood bridge is a disaster waiting to happen and should be closed immediately. In Tuesday's Outlook, Multnomah County Chair said any talk of closing the bridge was "irresponsible." However, his fellow County Commissioners seem to disagree.
Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts agreed with me at our last Troutdale city council meeting after I urged the county to close the bridge. He said, "I agree with you. If it were up to me, I'd close the bridge today".
County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey also doesn't seem to agree with Wheeler. The September 28, 2007 Portland Business Journal reported, "The worst-case scenario is that is if we can't raise the local matching funds, we'd have to shut it down," said Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey. "That bridge isn't going to survive for another 10 to 20 years."
What about other opinion makers in the region? In an August 9, 2007 opinion piece, Dan Itel, editor of the West Linn Daily Tidings, wrote, "And taking into account the Minneapolis tragedy, aren’t all of us who choose to drive on bridges, that engineers determine aren’t sound to hold us, put in harm’s way unnecessarily? If I can help it, I’ll avoid the Sellwood Bridge from now on."
Multnomah County should put the public's safety ahead of the inconvenience of more congestion on the region's other bridges.
In addition to preventing a tragedy, closing the Sellwood bridge would force the issue of regional funding.
Clackamas County and the City of Portland have looked the other way when they've been approached about providing money to replace the Sellwood bridge. It's been said that the bridge has no constituency. That's not true. 30,000+ vehicle daily trips is a large constituency. 70% of those trips are folks travelling from Clackamas County into Portland.
By closing the Sellwood bridge, Multnomah County could say to Clackamas County and Portland, "No financial contribution to Sellwood bridge replacement? Fine. No convenient commute for your voters. The ball's in your court." Does this sound cold-hearted, cynical, and brutal? Absolutely. But it's the only way to get Clackamas County and Portland to the table.
By itself, Multnomah County cannot raise enough funds to replace the Sellwood bridge. It's obvious that Metro's financial priorities are set on a new light rail bridge over the Willamette River, in spite of the Sellwood bridge's unsafe condition. But it's time for Clackamas County and Portland to step up to the table with some cold hard cash.