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Read Potter’s memo on Sauvie Island Bridge re-use plan

Posted by on April 1st, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Download memo (130K, PDF)

I’ve finally obtained the memo from Mayor Potter that I referred to in my story about the Sauvie Island Bridge re-use plan I published earlier today.

The memo outlines Potter’s concerns about the plan and was sent to all four Commissioners and the City Auditor. Potter’s seeming lack of support for the project has set up an important City Council vote and has irked both Commissioner Adam’s office and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

One passage in particular shows that Potter does not fully grasp the opportunity this bridge presents for a safe and adequate bike and pedestrian-only crossing of I-405:

“…Does the need for this bridge outweigh other capital transportation requests we currently have? Crossing I-405 does not appear to be an immediate problem for bikes or pedestrians given that there are currently two overpasses on either side of Flanders – one on Everett, another on Glisan.”

Anyone that has ridden on either Everett or Glisan across I-405 can tell you they are anything but safe and comfortable for all but hardcore cyclists.

For more commentary on this story, read the Bridge Over Troubled Potter post over on the Portland Architecture blog.

Read the full text of Potter’s memo below, or download a PDF here.

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DATE: March 31, 2008

TO: Commissioner Sam Adams
Commissioner Randy Leonard
Commissioner Dan Saltzman
Commissioner Erik Sten
Auditor Gary Blackmer

FROM: Mayor Tom Potter

SUBJECT: Council Agenda Item 433:
NW Flanders Street – Sauvie Island Bridge Re-use

I will be in the Kaer Arbitration when this item comes before Council, and thus unable to participate in the discussion. However, I want the Council to be aware of concerns I have about Item 433 as you move forward.

• I am concerned about cost. This ordinance enters the City into a Sole Source contract with Max J. Kuney Construction for “not to exceed” (unless amended) amount of $5,500,000.00.” Of that amount, $2 million will come from PDC Tax Increment Funds; $2 million will come from Transportation System Development Charges; $1 million in Federal Transportation Enhancement funds, and $500K will theoretically come from private donations.

• This is listed as a “new” request for $2 million as a line item in the current ‘07-08 River District URA budget. Since this has not been discussed by the PDC budget work team, how will this impact other projects in the district using PDC Tax Increment Funds?

• Building a new, 15-foot wide bridge would cost approximately $1.5 million less than using the 30-foot Sauvie Bridge. Are there mitigating safety factors or other concerns that justify the much greater costs at a time when the economy is slowing? Is there any documentation on how the preference for the wider bridge was reached?

• The “private” funds have not yet materialized. According to PDOT, any shortfall will be made up with “funds budgeted for bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements…” I am concerned about spending money marked for bicycle and pedestrian safety on what will be a third bridge in a three-block span.

• I am concerned about the “final” cost. The contractor has already received $350,000 for preliminary work, and the Purchasing Agent has the ability to amend the contract for up to 25% of the total cost without coming back to Council, which would equal $1,375,000. Although there is a “high” confidence factor in the $5.5 million figure, it is conceivable that the City could end up paying $7.2 million for this one bridge if there are delays.

• If Council approves this item today, this project becomes a priority over others using Transportation System Development Charge funding. Does the need for this bridge outweigh other capital transportation requests we currently have? Crossing I-405 does not appear to be an immediate problem for bikes or pedestrians given that there are currently two overpasses on either side of Flanders – one on Everett, another on Glisan.

In a constrained budget environment, and with $7 million in transportation spending that Commissioner Adams is currently supporting in the General Fund budget, I would urge the Council to discuss whether we should fund this project or focus on other neighborhood transportation priorities.

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For background on this story, read my previous coverage.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

32 Comments
  • Avatar
    DJ Hurricane April 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Potter is clearly no friend of the bicyclists or pedestrians of Portland. That whole CM thing was nothing more than a campaign stunt. This guy is as lame as a lame duck gets.

    Good riddance to Potter and his anti-Portland values.

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    Jordan April 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    My question is what would we get for 1.5 million? It seems to me that those funds could be used on other needed bike and safety projects around the city.

    More bike boxes? maybe? or repairs to damaged roads through out the city that endanger cyclists and users. In my neighborhood in SE their are many large potholes on my the bike blvd.

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    Mike April 1, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I\’m a cyclist, bike commuter, driver, pedestrian, tax payer and a Portland resident. I don\’t see anything overtly anti-bicycle in that memo and I think Mayor Potter raised a number of good questions that should be answered prior to moving forward.

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    Andy April 1, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I agree with mike. although the project would be really cool 1.5 mil is a lot of money. Could that 1.5 be used to finish the spring water corridor? Don\’t forget the sellwood bridge. How about building some greenways on all the old rail corridors. Also do we as the cycling community really want to pick this fight when the CRC is looming. If the cycling community throws it\’s weight behind this bridge (the pork of that 1.5 mil has a lot of fodder for those who feel cycling is antiquated) could this come back and bite us hard in our toned buttocks?
    If you think about it there could be much to loose here: The mayors race to a less cycling friendly candidate, future projects on the grounds of pork barrel, or more.

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    steve April 1, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I agree Mike.

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    Schrauf April 1, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Potter has \”some\” good points. It would be nice if he and the rest of the council could be bargained with, and put the previously planned pedestrian overpass on the fast track, in exchange for the Sauvie bridge idea being dropped. The Sauvie bridge is nice but not necessary. However, \”a\” bridge should be constructed sometime sooner than five years or a decade down the road (no pun intended). I\’m sure the previously planned bridge would be at least ten feet wide, which should be just fine.

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    john April 1, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Yeah, I love how anyone who does not bow down before unreasonable expenditures in the name of Sam\’s plan for a mayoral inauguration is \”anti Portland.\”

    Can you folks really now see through this?

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    DJ Hurricane April 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Mike, you have to look really close. Read between the lines. Consider Potter\’s actions and inactions from the rest of his term. Then you will see the anti-bicycle aspects of the memo.

    And I\’m glad you love it john. Just for you, I\’ll say it again: The Mayor has anti-Portland values.

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    2GOAT April 1, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    The 1.5 Million savings that Potter reports would not be able to go to Bike/peds projects through out the city and it would not be able to be used for road repair or maintenance.
    The sources of funding for 5 million of the expected bridge costs are very explicit in where and how they can be used.
    The only funds that may be up for grabs is whatever portion of the $500K that comes from private donations…even those donations may not be distributed to other projects if the donors so prescribe.

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    drew April 1, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    DJ Hurricane,

    If you look really really close, you will see no lines.

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    josh April 1, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    From Commissioner Adam\’s website:

    3/15/06
    \”Right now, I am leaning towards letting the county scrap the bridge. Especially considering the current budget situation, this is not a high priority.\”

    He did say he was open to hearing other options in favor of saving the bridge, but really, what is a strong enough argument to negate not only the Mayor\’s memo, but Sam\’s own words? The Mayor is right, and so was Sam.

    The cost of the crossing over McLoughlin was significantly less and I think it serves its purpose.

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    Michelle April 1, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    I think the money isn\’t up for grabs for other bike/ped projects – it\’s local development and tax increment fees that get spent in this neighborhood, and can\’t be shifted over to other projects we like (like the Springwater or bike boxes, etc).

    Anyone know the details? Correct me if I\’m wrong.

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    JCW April 1, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Potter cannot be gone soon enough. I for one am looking forward to getting my ballot and voting for Sam as Mayor as soon as possible!

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    mmann April 1, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    I\’m having a hard time seeing why an old, rusty, fatigued (but attractive? historically significant?) 30-ft wide span is going to be that much better than a new 15-ft wide span. 15 feet is enough for bikes, especially for a short crossing. Can someone see something I\’m missing here? I say scrap it.

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    Dag April 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I think that it would be sweet to have the Sauvie Island bridge as a symbol for bike and ped power. But is that symbol worth $1.5 million? Damned if I know.

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    Scott Mizée April 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Many good points by commenters above. I\’m not convinced this is the best short or long term solution for the old Sauvie Island Bridge or this location. It sounds like there is a lot of minutia here that the majority of us blog readers not fully informed about. From what I read above, It sounds like both Sam Adams and Mayor Potter are against re-using the Sauvie Island Bridge in Northwest Portland. …and at this point, I\’m inclined to agree with them.

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    Scott Mizée April 1, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I guess I was mislead by the quote above

    From Commissioner Adam\’s website:
    3/15/06
    \”Right now, I am leaning towards letting the county scrap the bridge. Especially considering the current budget situation, this is not a high priority.\”

    He said he was \”leaning towards\” scrapping the bridge 2 years ago. From Jonathans other post about this:

    Commissioner Adams has worked to bring the Sauvie Span to Flanders Street all along, and word from City Hall is that he has support from Commissioners Sten and Leonard.

    it sounds like he has changed his mind?

    It will be interesting to watch this play out.

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    zilfondel April 1, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Hold a bake sale.

    This bridge would be really cool in forming a connection between the two densest and most bike-friendly neighborhoods in Portland.

    30\’ isn\’t that wide. We\’re talking a width of two SUV\’s put nose-to-nose.

    I think the symbolism of this bridge more than outweighs its pricetag. It would be huge if we could get private donations to help bridge the gap (mind the pun…); Portland loves its old bridges – and have any of you seen the old POS concrete ped bridges in Portland? They all suck. Period.

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    chuck April 1, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    correct me if I\’m wrong, but isn\’t the cost of a new bridge $1.5 million LESS than the cost of moving the old bridge?

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    Morgan April 1, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    How many cyclists actually cross everett and glisan? Is there a site to see these numbers? Foot traffic can cross both bridges with no problems + there are bike lanes for both streets… a bike box seems more appropriate for everett, glisan w/o a right turn for autos at 14th/405 off ramp is pretty straight forward. And my own opinion; crossing under 405 around the pearl is enjoyable (and low traffic) except for a few freight trucks from time to time.

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    SteveG April 2, 2008 at 6:01 am

    I hate to change the subject, but …

    This $7 million bridge — which would actually be a nice neighborhood transportation enhancement — would cost less than two tenths of one percent of the cost of the proposed $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing project. I\’d like to know where Mayor Potter stands on THAT project…

    If the Monster Bridge goes through, any chance for getting this sort of \”neighborhood scale\” project funded will evaporate, as every penny of discretionary regional transportation money gets sucked into the CRC rat hole.

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    Steven J April 2, 2008 at 6:44 am

    The Marine Corps has a tradition of returning a portion of funds allocated to their budget.
    With that comes a measure of pride.

    I would gladly spend 1.5mil less on a new elegant bridge with a longer lifespan, than try and refit an old bridge that will need extensive modifications& stepped up maintaining.
    Even If those saved funds could not be tagged for bike use elsewhere, saving the city revenue is classier to me.
    I know we\’ve had to scrape for every minor improvement we\’ve gotten in the last 10 years but such a squabble over a bridge that connects NW and Pearl?

    SE side could use far more safety related funds.

    And no..I don\’t live in SE.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 2, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Scott (#17),

    I believe Adams was initially against bringing the Sauvie Span to the Pearl because the funding picture hadn\’t played out and the local businesses and n\’hood hadn\’t stepped up to support it… HOWEVER, once the funding came together and the Sauvie span got big support from local businesses and residents, Adams renewed his support for the project and has worked to make it happen ever since.

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    toddistic April 2, 2008 at 7:43 am

    i\’d rather have 1.5m go to other bicycle improvements around the city, or maybe improve the current bridges for ped / bike access. i like the idea of an old bridge but the financial constraints make it unattractive when we could put that money towards more bike boulivards, and other bike friendly initiatives.

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    G.A.R. April 2, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Flanders is a perfect place for a bike/ped crossing. Having said that, high speed cycling on this block, which has been cited as an argument for a wide roadway, is not very important. 14th and 16th are arterials and 15th is currently a high-traffic cut-through for NWers\’ cars heading north on I-405. There will be controls at both ends of the block. The fast cycling will last for 200 feet before it comes to a red light.

    I am interested in the long term.

    Katz\’s lid may have seemed out of reach at the time, but the long term future of I-405 is that it be built over. The location is simply too valuable. I-405 is an eyesore. The developments on top will pay for the construction of the necessary spans. Covering it will not face serious obstacles.

    The lid will not be compatible with the Sauvie span. It will be part of the cityscape: multi-use space, greenspace, etc. For example, when you step out of a building onto Flanders, you won\’t step up through a green railing, under a green truss, onto an arched highway. That would be silly and would interfere with normal living. You will step onto an ADA-compliant sidewalk, which may or may not be separated from bike traffic by curbs. I am imagining a street or alley with curbs. It has pylons at the ends (like along Waterfront Park at Columbia St.) keeping cars and trucks out. The pylons can be removed for special occasions, emergencies, or exceptional deliveries by permit.

    The lid can be implemented in sections as small as a block. The first piece of the lid could extend from Everett to Glisan.

    People will live, work, and shop on this very block, and will have addresses in the 1500 block of Flanders!

    There is a great place for the Sauvie span, where we can celebrate a bridge that served the community well for many decades. Let\’s get creative and find a good location for it. Meanwhile, for the Flanders location we should build something functional that we won\’t mind ripping out in a few years when the buildings go up above I-405.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 2, 2008 at 7:50 am

    \”i like the idea of an old bridge but the financial constraints make it unattractive when we could put that money towards more bike boulivards, and other bike friendly initiatives.\”

    Please understand that in transportation funding, money is not always transferable to any project. In this case, some of the funds that have materialized would only be possible to use for the Sauvie Bridge re-use plan.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 2, 2008 at 7:51 am

    \”high speed cycling on this block, which has been cited as an argument for a wide roadway, is not very important. \”

    Where did you get the \”high-speed\” cycling thing? that has nothing to do with any argument I\’ve heard for a wide roadway.

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    kg April 2, 2008 at 7:53 am

    It\’s called an investment. What do you love about this city? How do you think that came to be? Forest Park could be a great neighborhood and generate a lot of tax income for the city but a few visionaries had other ideas. I rarely ride or walk through this part of town but this is a rare opportunity to preserve a piece of local history and create another unique landmark in or special city. I think this project is worth doing on many levels but I would rather have no bridge here than the concrete alternative.

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    steve April 2, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Jonathan said-

    \”Please understand that in transportation funding, money is not always transferable to any project. In this case, some of the funds that have materialized would only be possible to use for the Sauvie Bridge re-use plan.\”

    Is this how you run your personal budget as well? Has money started growing on trees and I missed the memo?

    The funds that would \’only be possible\’ to spend, are going to be burned up into thin air instead? It is amazing how cavalier people can be with Millions of dollars.

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    kg April 2, 2008 at 9:50 am

    No the money wouldn\’t just \”burn up into thin air\”, it would be used for something else, probably in another state.

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    BikingViking April 2, 2008 at 11:34 am

    G.A.R.

    I agree with you about paving over all of I-405. I never understood why mayor Katz\’s idea never got more traction. It\’s hard to imagine that project not paying for itself. Having some type of greenspace and/or esplanade would make many areas of inner Portland even more enjoyable to walk/bike.

    But I might have to disagree with GAR on his conclusion of not using the Sauvie Island bridge. If we do pave over the 405, any concrete structure would probably get demolished in the process. Conversely, the Sauvie Island bridge will be reusable again. On top of that, it will already of had all of its lead paint removed, meaning that if it had to be moved again it would cost substantially less, perhaps even less than buildling a new bridge.

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    2GOAT April 2, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Steve & kg,
    This was the financial breakdown $2 million System Development Charge. This money that has already been budgeted to pay for some form of Peds/Bike bridge over I-405 at Flanders.
    $2 million Tax Increment Fund, these are funds committed to the River district so it can\’t be used in any other neighborhood.
    $1 million from a Federal program for funding alternative transportation projects so this can go else where in the city, state, and back to the federal coffers if not spent for building new roads.
    Half a million was expected to be generated from private donations…so unless you can get these people to motivated to donate to some other worthy cause…it will stay in their pockets.

    But my argument is moot because Mayor Potter\’s smashed this proposal His rational was \”fiscal responsibility\” and \”this money could go for other maintenance and repair of roads\”.
    He seemed to miss the point that it was less than 10% of the funding that could be used for repair and maintenance and that Portland would be getting a $12 million dollar bridge for half price, conceivably completed in the next year or two.
    Now the Ped/Bike bridge job will just be tossed back in the the extensive list of repairs and improvements on the city list.

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