(Photo © J. Maus)
With a major setback at City Council today, the question now is, what’s next?
Commissioner Adams did not secure the votes he needed today to enter into a contract with Kuney Construction to begin the relocation and construction of the Sauvie Island Bridge span over I-405 at NW Flanders.
Despite unanimous public testimony in support of the plan, Commissioner Dan Saltzman (the deciding vote) did not feel comfortable pledging his support*.
[*Update: Saltzman was not the deciding vote. Since this was an emergency declaration it required unanimous support from everyone present at Council and Mayor Potter also voted no. Initially, Potter was not expected to attend, which is why I previously thought only four votes would be needed.]
After the vote, Saltzman told me he is in support of the idea of re-using the Sauvie span, but he does not think the City should just give the contract for the job to Kuney Construction. Saltzman is worried that the current proposal puts the City in a vulnerable position with Kuney.
“I’m saying, let’s get the bridge [buy it from Kuney], then do a competitive process for the work.” The contract as it was proposed this morning would have been the largest no-bid contract in Portland’s history.
Saltzman’s Chief of Staff Brendan Finn said his boss just felt like they were being rushed into a decision. Explaining his position at the Council meeting today, Saltzman said, “The last position I want to be in is having a contractor thinking they’ve got us over the barrel.”
Saltzman’s “no” vote was a huge blow to many who attended today’s meeting.
According to the BTA’s Karl Rohde, if this proposal would have passed today, the new bridge would have been opened by this December. “It would have been quite a Christmas present to the community,” he said.
But with Potter and Saltzman voting no today, unless a last-ditch solution can be reached to save the Sauvie Bridge span, a new (narrower and concrete) bridge would likely not be built for at least another five years.
According to sources, that last-ditch plan will be to have PDOT enter into a negotiation with Kuney Construction to purchase the bridge and move it off-site to complete some prep work (initial estimates put the cost of this at $2.4 million). At the same time, the City could put out a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) for contractors to bid on completing the job.
According to Saltzman’s staff, if PDOT succeeds in purchasing the bridge, and finding a more suitable contractor relationship, he would support the plan.
Unfortunately, according to Adams’ office, Kuney is at the end of the line and they do not seem likely to be willing to wait much longer for a deal to materialize.
Commissioner Adams acknowledged that today’s vote was a setback, but said he will now work to address Saltzman’s concerns.
Hopefully, PDOT, City Council, and Kuney can quickly come to the table and figure something out. For all the reasons you read in the testimony today, it would be an awful shame for this opportunity to pass us by.