Kuney flies in to help save the Sauvie span

Max J. Kuney at City Hall
a few hours ago.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Max J. Kuney, of Kuney Construction, flew into Portland today to help save the Sauvie Island Bridge span.

Sensing that the project was on life-support after yesterday’s setback at City Council, Kuney paid his own way to fly to City Hall from his Spokane headquarters to meet with Commissioners and PDOT staffers working on the project.

Kuney is the owner of the Sauvie span and his company is on contract with Multnomah County on the project to replace it.

I spoke with Kuney at City Hall a few minutes ago and he said he didn’t want PDOT and City Council to think he was rushing them into a decision.

“We’re not trying to stampede them into making a decision on this. I asked Sam [Commissioner Adams] if me being here to explain the situation would help, and he said, ‘sure’, come on down.”

Kuney added, “I’m here to talk about the realities of our schedule and to answer questions about the bridge.”

Kuney has already made it clear that he would love to see the old Sauvie Island Bridge span — which his company owns — get re-used in downtown Portland. But he must remove the bridge (it is currently still in place connecting Hightway 30 to Sauvie Island) by June. This timeframe is what led Commissioner Adams to have to put forth an emergency declaration yesterday which would have allowed PDOT to work with Kuney to move the project forward.

That emergency declaration would have taken effect immediately, but it also required at least four of five Council votes and the unanimous support of everyone present. Adams expected Mayor Potter (who he knew would vote “no”) to miss the vote, but Potter surprised everyone by showing up — thus guaranteeing the measure would fail.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman also voted no, based on a technicality about the the nature of PDOT’s contract with Kuney.

As of 3:00pm today, Kuney is in Commissioner Adams’ office and Adams has just finished a meeting with Commissioner Saltzman to try and come to an agreement that all parties feel comfortable with.

Kuney says getting involved with a project like this is not his usual practice. “Usually, we come into a project after all the funding is lined up, then we bid on it and carry out the job. This situation is unique from a process standpoint.”

As a fourth-generation bridge builder (his great-grandpa founded the company in 1930), Kuney is clearly here for more than just another job.

“We have to take the bridge somewhere in June,” he said, “and we’d rather put it where you guys can actually use it.”

Stay tuned…the final chapter in the story of the Sauvie Island Bridge span is yet to be written. (Let’s hope for a happy ending.)

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