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.
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.
For background on this story, read my previous coverage.