A little insight on the Sellwood Bridge

Karol Collymore

Disclaimer, I work for the County but I work for Jeff Cogen, not Ted Wheeler.

Comments

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)
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    This is a testament to why sometimes it's good to have someone more like an accountant/engineer/policy wonk as an elected leader, instead of the more typical public personality.

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    I thought it was a great briefing and a good use of the youtube (or whatever) format.

  • Mike (unverified)
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    Ted Wheeler for Mayor!

    Mike

  • Michael O Hanna (unverified)
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    Thanks for posting this Karol. Good background on the Sellwood Bridge. This is just one more example where Multnomah County really needs citizen and community leader input and involvement to help solve these long-standing problems that were created long before any of the current elected leaders were in office.

  • Old Ducker (unverified)
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    Very informative video. I used to work not far from that bridge and crossed it daily, but I was never aware of some of these things...

  • Steve (unverified)
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    Any comment from Sam or is he too busy digging up money for Merritt Paulson or Hank Ashforth (Mr CC Hotel)?

  • The Chinuk (unverified)
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    That was a really great video. The shots were framed perfectly, and whoever directed hit just the right balance of Ted, images, and words.

    I particularly liked the way Ted talked to us, not at us or down to us.

    It really makes the case as to why the bridge needs repairs, and demonstrates things that we need to know - and I didn't know that that office building on the east end actually was built with the bridge supports going down through it.

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    Nerds rule! Nerds rule! Nerds rule!

    Seriously, that was a great video. I actually learned something.

  • Phil Philiben (unverified)
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    Thanks Karol Running around in shorts kicking a ball is obviously more important than repairing this bridge. I mean don't you know!

  • Jim H (unverified)
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    Holy crap! That building under the bridge is crazy! I never noticed that before. How loud is it in there I wonder? Great video.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    It's a great video, but I have to wonder why Ted hasn't included funding for the new bridge in his budget. Yes, the County is slashing its programs to the bone, but if this is such a high priority for him and the public, why isn't funding included? It seems like Ted is trying to have it both ways -- get credit for talking about how important it is, but not taking the responsibility for fixing the problem. In his budget, he's clearly saying that funding for health and human services and the sheriff's office and the other things the County does are more important than fixing a bridge that is going to fall down. I actually agree with his priorities, but I'd like to know what his plan is to get this done in the next five years. A bond measure? Income tax surcharge? Beg for federal funding?

    Running around in shorts kicking a ball is obviously more important than repairing this bridge.

    Phil, none of the money being proposed for soccer or baseball can legally be spent on repairing the Sellwood bridge. You may not like that fact, but you can't deny it. So what's your point in connecting the two?

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    Phil, none of the money being proposed for soccer or baseball can legally be spent on repairing the Sellwood bridge.

    You're right, sort of. It's also true that lawmakers can change the law if they really want to. Hard, complex, rife with unintended consequences, yes. But possible.

  • conspiracyzach (unverified)
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    The key word is "legally". The shell game was created for dubious reasons by the quid pro quo pros. Amend the law to make it legal-problem solved.

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    Miles - there is funding in the budget for Sellwood and other Willamette River bridges in my Executive Budget. It totals about $13 million (most for Sellwood capital spending).

    Additionally, we are aggressively seeking a local match to leverage federal dollars (working with other local jurisdictions including Portland), and other state dollars that could be used for the Sellwood Bridge.

    Ted Wheeler Multnomah County Chair Second Rate Actor

  • William (unverified)
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    That's really a neat video. I learned a lot about that bridge.

    One thing that concerns me, and about which I haven't seen a lot of discussion, is who the county will hire to do the replacement. A few years ago, I believe Bechtel submitted an unsolicited bid. In my opinion (for which there's a lot of supporting evidence) it would be unacceptable to send our money to any company with such a shady track record.

    Is there any place online that shows what criteria the county uses to determine who will win any particular construction contract? Is a company's ethics considered? Whether or not it's a local company?

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Ted, thanks for the response. Since the Governor's transportation package is shrinking, the likelihood of state money seems low and the original estimates for Portland's share, which I believe you want to use as part of the local match, must be going down as well. So is that funding plan for replacing the Sellwood Bridge really viable any longer? If not, what are the alternatives? I guess I just can't figure out why a bond measure wasn't put on the ballot years ago to deal with this problem. Worst case is that it fails, and at least then the voters can blame themselves when they go crashing into the Willamette.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    It's also true that lawmakers can change the law if they really want to.

    Kari, that's not really true. The URA money being proposed for baseball and soccer cannot be used outside of the URA barring a change in state law, and I guarantee that's not going to happen (nor would it be a good idea). So even if the County Chair and Mayor wanted to use that funding for the bridge, it's out of their hands. I believe the same thing is true with the spectator facilities money that the City has put on the table -- the City can't just designate a revenue as general fund because they want to, it's all tied up in state budget law. And of course the private money that Paulson is putting up isn't available to fund the bridge.

    Now, you could argue that if we eliminated some or all of the URAs, that property tax money would flow into the general fund of the City and the County. That's partially true, although there is a legal obligation to pay back existing URA bonds for the rest of the term. As for the "increment" that is available, much of that is available because of the infrastructure investment that is occurring in the URA. If you take away the URA, you take away the investment, and you take away the property tax increment that is being used to finance some of these projects.

    I think there is a growing misunderstanding that URA funding is just taking property taxes that would have gone into the general fund and using them for something else. While that's true for a small portion of the funding (the part that would have occurred with inflation), most URA funding is a result of increased property values above and beyond inflation. Without the URA, you don't have that increase, and you don't have your increment. Changing the law means getting rid of the URA which means you don't have the increment to begin with, so you still can't use it to fund the Sellwood Bridge.

  • Phil Philiben (unverified)
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    "Phil, none of the money being proposed for soccer or baseball can legally be spent on repairing the Sellwood bridge."

    Kari, Kari, Kari

    I know this, though I'm a big sports fan, I have a real hard time with Municipal Governments spending any money on sports stadiums and more importantly wasting time on it. Build more parks so kids can play soccer.

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    "Phil, none of the money being proposed for soccer or baseball can legally be spent on repairing the Sellwood bridge."

    Bogus statement. The money will all be borrowed. The city can spend borrowed money on whatever it tells the lenders that it's going to spend it on. And the city and county could easily increase the hotel-motel tax or sports ticket tax and spend the increased revenue on the bridge. It just takes political guts, which of course is sorely lacking.

    This is the city, BTW, that wants to raid Pearl District property taxes to build a school in east county. It also recently borrowed millions in "urban renewal" funds and handed the county the money toward a new courthouse. If the city can do that, it can figure out a way to use "urban renewal" money toward fixing the bridge.

    As for noise in the building under the bridge, a friend of mine had an office there for years. In his part of the building, at least, it wasn't noisy.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    The city can spend borrowed money on whatever it tells the lenders that it's going to spend it on.

    Not true, Jack. State law prohibits spending tax increment outside of the urban renewal area where it is collected. The fact that the city is borrowing against the tax increment doesn't change that at all. That's why the city had to create the absurd satellite district in east county in order to build the school with Pearl money. As you know, the courts issued a mixed verdict on whether that's legal, and it's still somewhat up in the air.

    You're right that they could raise taxes to fix the bridge. So why are you giving props on your blog to Ted Wheeler for his video, which doesn't actually propose a solution?

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    Ted

    You need to conduct some aggressive outreach to the SMILE community. They can be productive partners in this effort but can also become a serious barrier.

    Right now this community is voicing strong NIMBY sentiments such as "Send those Clackmas commuters over the Ross Island and 205 bridge" or "keep the bridge small and inaccessible" and etc.

    There is a real tension here between the desire of Sellwood and Moreland to revitalize Tacoma and the need for this important connector + bridge.

    Minimally, you need to engage this community. Maximally, you can help them realize the interconnectedness of Multnomah and Clackmas means we have to work on these transportation solutions together.

    [Full disclosure, I live in Eastmoreland.]

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Screw it, just build more streetcars.

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    Thanks Paul G. for the suggestion. We can always do better, but community engagement has been a key goal of the process so far. Our Citizen Involvement Committee met dozens of times over two years to help us select the Locally Preferred Alternative (the alignment). Neighborhood representatives were very active in the process. There have been open houses, community meetings, one-on-one meetings with impacted neighbors, etc. Over 5000 citizens testified or provided written comments. (We made it easy by setting up a Sellwood Bridge website: sellwoodbridge.org). Comments are still welcome.

    By the way, since Miles asks the question, the point of the video wasn't to argue for a funding strategy. The point was to give perspective on the project, why it is urgent, and note some of the not-so-obvious challenges (i.e. topography, impact on homes and businesses, traffic volume, etc.) Most people don't cross the bridge and don't really know what the big deal is. The video hopefully paints a clear picture.

    I appreciate Karol posting the video and helping to get the word out. We are actively pursuing funding for this project. That might be an entertaining video in its own right....

  • conspiracyzach (unverified)
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    Why fund fixing bridges that are likely to fail when we can fund MLS, global whining, and light rail ?

  • Doug Allen (unverified)
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    I think Chair Wheeler does an excellent job of presenting the facts.

    Two points:

    1) I understand that Gov. Kulongoski wants to spend $30 million in State gas tax money on the Columbia River Crossing. If that money were shifted to making the Sellwood Bridge replacement project "shovel ready" many of the same engineering consultants that are working on the CRC would get the money, but we wouldn't be left with an empty Bernard Madoff scheme, which is what the CRC will be once it is clear that the money isn't there. Why pour money down the CRC rathole, when we can do something worthwile with the Sellwood?

    2) If we can't come up with enough to replace the Sellwood, we can repair it, which Chair Wheeler properly mentions as an option in his video. Although we know from the County's 2005 study by David Evans Associates that the bridge could be repaired to a state where bus service could be restored, for some $20 million, no one has honestly looked at a $100 million repair project. This would replace the weak deck with an "orthotropic steel" deck, as was recently used to rehab the Golden Gate Bridge, replace the west approaches, repair the east approaches, keep overweight trucks (those over 80,000 lbs) off the bridge, and widen the sidewalk. If we nix the massive reconstruction of the west interchange, eliminate the widening at the west end for storing cars, and avoid adding features that require rebuilding the trusses (which are in decent shape for normal loads) then the cost can be brought down to where rehab is worthwhile. I have been following this project, and the Citizen Task Force was explicitly instructed to ignore cost in their evaluation of alternatives. They did a decent job, given their charge, but if the money isn't there, we can still do something for less if we insist on it.

  • Jeff (unverified)
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    Any comment from Sam or is he too busy digging up money for Merritt Paulson or Hank Ashforth?

    You bet, Steve. These days, Sam is working harder than ever to twitter his mug into as many issues as possible -- especially where there's money or power.

    So what's Sam interest in the lowly Sellwood? Power. Sam has is holding the Sellwood Bridge hostage until Ted kisses Sam's CC Hotel.

    A bridge for a blarney. Sounds biblical don't it?

  • neither mark bunster nor bark munster (unverified)
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    Jack Bog sez:"This is the city, BTW, that wants to raid Pearl District property taxes to build a school in east county. It also recently borrowed millions in "urban renewal" funds and handed the county the money toward a new courthouse. If the city can do that, it can figure out a way to use 'urban renewal' money toward fixing the bridge."

    You know, I understand the dubious nature of the legal justification for using those Pearl District proeprty taxes to build the David Douglas District school, but good lord, Bogdanski: you bitch and moan about the Pearl District, and the folks who live or work or dine there, but when the Pearl actually serves indirectly to do some good, what do you do? Bitch and moan some more.

  • Rachel (unverified)
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    If the bridge is so dangerous, why don't you close it?
    And if the City is going to put in a chunk of change, wherever it comes from, will they get ownership of the bridge? It doesn't make any sense to me that the county is basically out of the road business except for the bridges.

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