Far and away the most important item on this coming week's City Council Agenda is
*1415 Authorize Intergovernmental Agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation for the Columbia River Crossing Project (Ordinance)
I covered the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) issue in January, twice, with an update on the process in July. I'm now hearing the estimated price tag for the new bridge The Powers That Be apparently want is FOUR BILLION DOLLARS. And this for a bridge that would be six lanes of car/truck traffic in each direction, which is somehow magically supposed to filter into three lanes at either end without causing backups and accidents. It doesn't make sense. Read more about Metro Councilor Robert Liberty's concerns about the project, which I share, in this article by Libby Tucker in the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC). No wait, this says the price tag may be SIX BILLION DOLLARS. Surely we can build an arterial bridge for local traffic at a cost of less than six billion dollars. From Libby's article:
"DJC: So how would that money get spent throughout the region, if it's not on CRC?
Liberty: We need people to understand that it's in competition with other projects. Some elements of the business community are just cheerleaders for whatever project the departments of transportation come up with. They need to do their due diligence, too. People in the freight community are supporting projects where trucks are going to be stalled in massive traffic jams. We need to talk about freight movement that's separate. We need to look at freight lanes that maybe are tolled at certain times of the day. Another point is we need to maintain what we have. We're way behind on maintenance. Fix it first. The cost of maintaining and repairing it is a pittance compared to the cost of building it."
Yet again, this agenda item has an emergency clause (denoted by the asterisk). The Columbia River Crossing bridge was discussed at the Planning Commission during my service prior to January 2004. I'd like to know why this ordinance wasn't brought to the Council in a timely manner.
The ordinance is to authorize provision of City services totalling $83,674.52, just for the next phase of scoping. The total cost for studying this humongous bridge is tens of millions of dollars - yes, just to study it. Any one of six jurisdictions can pull the plug on this project. The City of Portland is one of them. I plan to testify on Wednesday, asking the City to spend our transportation dollars on safety and maintenance of Portland's neighborhood streets, rather than further study and eventual, inevitable massive funding of a ridiculously expensive new bridge.
There are many other interesting items on the Wednesday morning agenda, which I wish I had more time to review. One follow-up from this past Wednesday's session, with the first reading of
1417 Authorize a major encroachment to bSide6, LLC to install, use and maintain building improvements in the airspace over a portion of the E Burnside St right-of-way at SW corner of SE 6th Ave and E Burnside St and
1418 Authorize lease agreement with bSide6, LLC in the amount of $1.00 per year to construct, use and maintain building improvements in the airspace over a portion of the E Burnside St right-of-way
which will be voted on this week at their Second Reading:
The project is the first of what Commissioner Adams hopes will be "arcade-style" development (presumably this means the overhang above the sidewalk) along Burnside. Sam said the Office of Transportation usually charges 10% of the value, per year, for use of the airspace over the right-of-way, such as skybridges. For this case, the assessment would be $2,500 per year, rather than the $1 annual fee being charged. It seems to me that a developer would still want $22,500 in extra revenue each year, even if they had to pay $2,500 annually for it instead of $1. And this vote sets a precedent for all subsequent desired "arcade-style" development to have the fee essentially waived. That will add up to a lot of lost revenue, over time.
Four Time Certains on Thursday afternoon:
1421 TIME CERTAIN: 2:00 PM – Terminate Transit Oriented Development and Multiple-Unit Housing limited tax abatements for certain properties no longer eligible for the program (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter)
1422 Terminate and deny Single Family New Construction limited tax abatements for certain ineligible properties (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter)
Removing tax breaks from properties that don't qualify for them is A Good Thing. Makes you wonder how long the ineligible properties have been getting them, and whether others should be added to the list, doesn't it?
1423 TIME CERTAIN: 2:45 PM – Adopt the Small Business Bill of Rights as a resource and tool to support, promote and improve the small business climate in Portland (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter and Commissioners Adams, Leonard, Saltzman and Sten)
Some interesting facts from the Resolution:
WHEREAS, the City of Portland recognizes that small local businesses are the backbone of our economy. In the Portland Metro area, 95.2% of all firms are small businesses;
WHEREAS, the Portland Metro area has 44,427 small businesses with less than 50
employees that employ 259,023 people and have a payroll of $2.2 billion; and
WHEREAS, in Multnomah County alone there are 20,654 small businesses that employ
125,032 people with a payroll of $1.1 billion and, of these, almost 13,000 are microenterprises with 5 or less employees;"
It's unfortunate the report and Small Business Bill of Rights aren't also posted as links to the Council Agenda.
The last item on Thursday:
1424 TIME CERTAIN: 3:45 PM – Accept State of the River Report 2006-2007 (Report introduced by Mayor Potter)
More studying by the Bureau of Planning. From the transmittal letter for the Report(again, would it be so hard to link directly to the document?):
"This year’s report describes 40 accomplishments, sets forth an agenda of over 35 river-related actions, and measures impacts through over 20 progress indicators. In addition, it profiles a number of river efforts by upstream communities and highlights key documents relating to riverfront redevelopment and watershed protection."
That's nice. In the meantime, eating from or even touching the Willamette is hazardous to health. We need more action, now.