support of the Sauvie span at City
Hall last week.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Mayor Potter has issued a statement to help further clarify his decision to vote against a proposal that would have allowed PDOT to turn the old Sauvie Island Bridge span into a new crossing of I-405 in Northwest Portland.
Potter made his decision at a key Council vote on the project last Wednesday. Prior to that vote, expecting he would be unable to attend the Council meeting, he issued a memo outlining why he did not support the project.
After his “no” vote, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) wrote on their blog, “Why is Mayor Potter opposed to this potential landmark project? Apparently the Mayor didn’t understand where the money would be coming from.”
Perhaps in response to the BTA, Potter published a statement on his website yesterday to clarify his position.
Here’s the statement:
Lifting the fog around my Sauvie Island Bridge vote.
Last week, I voted against an interesting proposal to place the old Sauvie Island Bridge across the I-405 at N.W. Flanders. I wasn’t against what I agree is an innovative idea – I just think there are higher priorities for our transportation dollars.
Some folks have misunderstood basic points around my vote:
- Safety is an issue citywide – it’s absolutely true, I don’t like children walking to school in the street.
- SDC’s [System Development Charges, fees paid by developers to account for their use of transportation infrastructure] can be used to build sidewalks.
- I wasn’t interested in using money earmarked for bicycle safety to make up for private donations that were still lacking.
- I wasn’t supporting the 15-foot bridge as an option, especially after it was explained that the $3.5 million price tag was a “best guess.”
Like Commissioner Saltzman, I was concerned about a sole source contract for so much money.
[Potter then referred readers to his memo.]
Portland resident Tim Davis is a supporter of the Sauvie Bridge span re-use project. He emailed Potter urging him to change his vote, saying if the project falls through it would be the, “biggest lost opportunity I have ever seen in Portland’s history.”
Here is how Potter responded to Davis’ plea:
I understand the passion our community feels for bikes, and I remain supportive of making improvements to the City’s bike infrastructure. However, we must balance our entire community’s needs with our available resources, especially as we head into economically uncertain times, and I believe this issue is one of City priorities. Children and families in East Portland, for instance, continue to walk in the streets because the sidewalks promised by officials in the past have not been built. These funds could finally begin that construction. I believe that we must prioritize those transportation projects that will provide basic services to the greatest number of Portland’s citizens.
I am also concerned about the accuracy of estimated expenses around this project. As Commissioner Adams noted in his opening remarks in Council, the cost estimates for a new 15-foot span are closer to educated guesses. I am similarly concerned about the estimates for moving the Sauvie Island bridge, as well as why the City would issued a substantial contract to a single firm without the opportunity to bid it to other contractors. I do not want to leave the City in a position to pay far more than expected.
I appreciate your interest in this project, and I hope that Portland’s Transportation Office (PDOT) will return with a proposal that addresses Council’s concerns.
In both of these responses, Potter continues to talk about Portland’s transportation funding priorities and building sidewalks.
I visited the area around where the bridge would go yesterday and found that the safety of the existing crossings is even worse than I though. Everett and Glisan Streets are one-way, multi-lane thoroughfares that are only safe for motorized traffic (and all but the most skilled and fearless bikers and walkers). The sidewalks are narrow and the intersection crossings are daunting.
Is East Portland deserving of, and have they been promised bike and ped improvements? Yes (along with many other areas). Residents of Northwest Portland have also been promised improvements to NW Flanders that have yet to materialize (until the Sauvie span opportunity came up).
Portland was promised improvements to NW Flanders back in 2002 as part of the Burnside/Couch Couplet plan.
Not only is the Flanders/I-405 area in urgent need of a safe, comfortable, and efficient alternative to Everett and Glisan, but the community is rallying around the Sauvie span project. Even with the project in limbo, businesses are pledging thousands of dollars, residents have their checkbooks ready, area schools (whose students need sidewalks) are eager to get involved, and neighborhood leaders are passionately supportive of the project.
This is not an either-or situation. If the Sauvie Span project goes through, it will not result in any less bike safety improvements in East Portland. And as for East Portland — what projects would you like to see funded? Let’s fight for those too and see if Mayor Potter is ready to go to bat for them. Use his talk to make him walk.
Despite media soundbites and sensationalism, and the poisonous City Hall political environment these days, the bottom line is that we’ve got unanimous support of the idea from City Hall.
The Mayor claims he “agrees it’s an innovative idea,” and that, “he’s supportive of making improvements to the city’s bike infrastructure.” Commissioner Saltzman — the other “no” vote — said he is also in support of the Sauvie span re-use idea, but that he just wants to have a better contract situation.
Great! We all agree this is an opportunity worth fighting for. Now, let’s all focus on how to make it happen. Let’s not let politics get in the way of this rare opportunity to make our city a better place to live in.
— Stay tuned for more coverage of the ongoing effort to Save the Sauvie Span. Read my extensive coverage of ths story here.