Sunday, April 18, 2010
County Cobbling Together Funds For New Sellwood Bridge
BY KRISTIAN FODEN-VENCIL
Portland, OR January 7, 2010 4:18 p.m.
Multnomah County corrected a new ordinance Thursday. As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, it increases local vehicle taxes to help pay to replace the crumbling Sellwood Bridge.
Last year, bits of concrete were falling off the Southwest Portland bridge and nobody knew where the $300 million need to replace it might be found.
On a federal scale of 1 to 100 that measures bridge safety, it scored a two.
This summer however, the state legislature stepped in.
First, it passed a State Transportation Bill, which will generate about $100 million for the project.
Second, says Mike Pullen, a spokesman for Mulnomah County, lawmakers allowed the two counties nearest the bridge to charge extra vehicle registration fees.
Mike Pullen: "What happened in Salem last summer was a real game changer and is going to allow the Sellwood Bridge to be replaced if we have a few more pieces of the puzzle come into play here."
Yesterday, Multnomah County found another piece of the puzzle.
It corrected a new ordinance that will add $38 every two years to the state vehicle tax. The $130 million that will generate over the next 20 years, can only be used to replace the bridge.
Clackamas County is expected to consider a similar measure in the next couple of months.
The state has also contributed another $30 million to the bridge. And the hope is that the rest, about $40 million, will come from the federal government.
Mike Pullen: "We think we're going to start construction in 2012, late that year. so that's about two and a half years away. And we think you're going to be able to drive across the entire new bridge by about 2015."
That's good news for commuters who spend hours in their cars every week waiting to cross the Willamette River.
The design has yet to be decided, but Pullen says it's probably not going to be a fancy suspension bridge -- because of the cost.
Commuters might also be pleased to learn the bridge will remain open during construction. But warns Mike Pullen, don't expect miracles.
Mike Pullen: "We're not saying that that new Sellwood Bridge will eliminate traffic problems. The new bridge will do a number of important things. It will stand up to a moderate quake, which we don't think the current bridge would. It will have great facilities for bikes, pedestrians and will be able to bring transit and trucks across the bridge. And also it will improve traffic somewhat, especially on the west side around the bridge."
The new vehicle registration tax will go into effect September 1st for Multnomah County residents. It basically doubles the current fee.
© 2010 OPB