Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 18th, 2011 at 9:27 am
In case you haven't heard, Clackamas County voters soundly rejected (63-37 percent) a $5 annual vehicle registration fee that would have raised $22 million to help pay for the ailing Sellwood Bridge over the Willamette River.
The fee was passed by the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners back in December, but activist groups (including Americans for Prosperity) opposed the fee and organized to get the issue on the ballot.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) urged their members to vote in favor of the measure: "Don’t let a vocal group of anti-tax residents speak on your behalf," they wrote in a blog post, "when they claim that safety and accessibility are not priorities for Clackamas County residents."
While the bridge resides in Multnomah County, it carries a substantial amount of Clackamas County traffic (the $22 million is only 7% of the total bridge cost).
Even so, anti-fee petition leaders are likely celebrating a sweet victory this morning. One of them, Dan Holladay, had an interesting quote in The Oregonian last night (emphasis mine):
"Voters sent the message that Clackamas County isn't Portland, and it's time for some fiscal responsibility," Holladay said. "The county commissioners need to figure out how to use the money they have wisely instead of just tossing it around for the next green sustainable project, bikes and bike paths. In Clackamas County, we drive cars."
Without this contribution from Clackamas County, the project now has a funding gap (the County has said they don't have any other money). It's unclear how that gap will be filled (total funding shortfall for the bridge is $42 million).
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Karfoury said today via the Multnomah County website that,
"Now that Clackamas County voters have spoken, we will roll up our sleeves to try to complete this important project without their help... Replacing the bridge must remain our top transportation priority."
As for next steps, Karfoury said,
"Our choices are to delay portions of the project, pursue funds at the state and federal levels even though both of those sources are very uncertain, or identify further cost savings without sacrificing safety improvements that are a must for all bridge users."
We'll keep you posted.