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Exclusive: Adams will scrap Sauvie span project

Posted by on May 6th, 2008 at 9:56 pm

“I don’t feel comfortable moving forward at this point.”
–Commissioner Sam Adams

City of Portland Commissioner Sam Adams will announce tomorrow (5/7) that he will pull the plug on a plan to re-use the Sauvie Island Bridge span as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing over I-405 in Northwest Portland.

The decision comes on the eve of a City Council vote on the project and it was made because of a new report from the Oregon Department of Transportation that paints a bleak funding picture for City of Portland transportation projects. According to state figures, a perfect storm of high fuel prices, less miles being driven, and less gas tax revenue coming back to the city, has caused an even greater funding shortfall than expected just a few months ago.

Commissioner Adams
(Photo © J. Maus)

In a telephone conversation earlier tonight, Adams told me that, “We got updated forecasts from the state that PDOT is an additional $2 million in the hole due to reduced mileage which has affected gas tax proceeds that flow back to the city.”

The Sauvie span re-use project did not rely on gas tax revenue directly, but Adams added that, “on the other side of the equation, the implication of high fuel prices is that all of our projects that are energy intensive to build are coming in higher than anticipated.”

Because of this new report, Adams says he “can’t provide reasonable assurance” that the Sauvie span project could be completed within the guaranteed maximum price of $5.5 million, adding “I don’t feel comfortable moving forward at this point.”

“It’s a great project… it’s very sad to make this announcement, but I just can’t provide the assurance.”

Adams says he’s already contacted Max Kuney (the owner of the bridge and presumptive contractor for at least one portion of the project) to let him know PDOT will not be moving forward with the project.

A new bridge still might be coming to NW Flanders, and Adams says he’ll “proceed with the vision” as part of the Burnside-Couch Couplet plan, but according to Adams that bridge is at least “2-4 years out” (the Sauvie span was scheduled to be installed by Spring 2009).

Adams says he will ask PDOT to do an assessment of the area around NW Flanders and I-405 and he still plans to make safety improvements. “They wouldn’t provide the same benefits as the bridge,” he said, “but we’ll try to do as many cheaper/safer improvements in the corridor as we can.”

So, instead of a vote that would have authorized the start of the Sauvie Island bridge re-use project, PDOT will instead hold a news conference tomorrow morning at City Hall to announce its demise and share further information about the impact of rising gas prices on their budget.

More to come tomorrow…

===

— Learn more about the Sauvie Island Bridge re-use saga in the archives.

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

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Lillian Karabaic
Guest

The only thing that doesn\’t suck in that post is less miles being driven.

Farewell, sauvie island bridge. It would\’ve been great.

burning shame
Guest
burning shame

sigh…

JHB
Guest
JHB

Is it just me, or is Sam starting to show a trend of supporting visionary projects and then backing away when it becomes politically difficult to back the project? I am very disappointed by this reversal.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Nice try. I still would like to think something could work out for it, but it seems very important to stay within a known budget on a deal like this. I suppose we may now see whether the sidewalks first voices will stay with their effort to have those improvements made for Cully from some of this money, or whether that was just a simple ploy to cancel the Flanders crossing project.

Daniel (teknotus) Johnson
Guest
Daniel (teknotus) Johnson

I think that if people had been honestly informed about the real situation it would have happened, but unfortunately it happened during an election so facts were intentionally twisted to divide the voters.

Keith
Guest
Keith

Thanks for trying.

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

The reason people are driving less is because gas prices are rising. And it seems like adding a bicycle bridge would be the perfect solution to keeping our economy moving in an era of higher gas prices…

But maybe that is just the way I think.

Matt Picio
Guest

Well, crap.

To everyone who poured time, sweat and blood into this project – THANK YOU!

Can\’t blame Sam, though – the funding issue is a problem that\’s been looming for some time.

n8m
Guest
n8m

Win some, lose some.
Keep on keepin\’ on Sam.

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

Ah but Lilli that is still sad. Less miles are being driven so we have less money for projects that will make even less miles driven. I think it is very discouraging that our goal is to reduce emissions and miles driven but by doing so we can\’t fund projects that would help. Wake up transportation funding! Spending money to get money is stupid and so is removing money for not spending it.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

As predicted, the political ramifications of such a project were more complicated than they seemed at the outset. Good on Sam for pulling the plug and having the courage to do so. Few politicians these days are willing to have such an open mind.

Now start campaigning and advertising for your mayoral run. Sho is gonna whip your butt unless you kick it into high gear. The Shozies are out in force…

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I place the blame squarely on the mayor. He made this project about politics, not merits. How could it withstand cost increases when the whole city is \”divided\” by it?

Ugh.

Jose Rodriguez
Guest
Jose Rodriguez

Props to Sam for admitting that there isn\’t a clear vision or \”assurance\” for this project. This is sad for all of the people that have devoted a lot of time into this project.
I\’m actually kind of relieved, however, to see this project be put on hold. Don\’t get me wrong, I would love to see a bike & ped bridge over the 405 and I do feel that it is justifiable due to the safety of those people and the safety of the even more people riding bikes these days. But, in my opinion, there is a road one block up from each side of the projected bridge location. I think we should focus on the cheaper process of making those crossings safer (which I think Sam makes mention of doing). I think there are enough bridges over the 405. There are probably about 5-8 within a 15 block span (rough numbers). I think we should try to focus on making some of those current bridges safer for bikes & peds. This would save the city a lot of money and be more economical & green because (also as Sam mentions) there would be a large construction cost to relocate & restructure the bridge.
Let\’s now focus on the saving money and saving of not using as much diesel fuel to relocate this bridge.

Thanks Jonathan for covering this issue (and many others) so well & in-depth.

Steve (not steve!!)
Guest
Steve (not steve!!)

What Jose said (13).

Spanky
Guest
Spanky

So is Sam saying that high energy costs created a situation in which he can not be assured the project will come in at or under 5.5 million? He seems to be saying that, and if so, that smells like a politically expediaent excuse. Declining gas tax income should not have an impact on the cost of the project. And it is hard to believe that increased fuel costs alone could cause the project to go over the 5.5, especially given that those cost estimates are not terribly old. Fuel costs have been high for quite a while now. it is not as if they jumped over night.

I never believed it could be pulled off within the 5.5 million.

It kind of appears as if Sam is using fuel costs and the tax revenue issue as excuses to withdraw the project and avoid the political heat it has caused.

I have talked to no one who supports the project. And most of the people (from stereotypical rednecks to stereotypical educated inner east siders) I have talked to have referred to it with derision.

I think Sam has realized it looks like a pet project for the Pearl that doesn\’t benefit enough people to justify the cost (and for him, the political cost).

But maybe I am just being a cynic.

Paul Manson
Guest
Paul Manson

The continued decline in gas tax revenue will be something that hits our community pretty hard, I expect that as projects are prioritized bicycle ones will not win out as often. We have to remember that much of our bicycle infrastructure was built with gas tax dollars and that maybe we need a new finance model to stay successful. So long as roads are built based on gallons consumed, we will see less and less transportation funding.

Justin
Guest
Justin

I think you\’re being a cynic. Any damage from naysayers has already been done. Sam already stuck his neck out. I think we may have a case of a sad but wise decision. The last thing the bike community needs is a Tram or Water Billing overrun type scandal. It\’d hurt us all.

Robin
Guest

I can understand the reasons behind stopping this project. And if anything the shortfalls might help find more support for Safe, Sound and Green Streets.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Nearly all ODOT projects are coming in over budget because rising energy costs are having an effect on the price of materials like steel and concrete.

On the gas tax side charging a per gallon tax has never made any sense to me, we would have extra money if our tax was a percentage of the cost of gas.

bjorn

Moo
Guest
Moo

Well at least we\’ll get a few blocks of sidewalks and some potholes filled somewhere. Pretty lame!

E
Guest
E

I am sad to see the bridge plan go, but props to Sam for being fiscally responsible. He had the political support he needed, but without the funds it can\’t be done with integrity. Grownups have to make hard choices sometimes and that\’s what he did.

I saw Sam at the bike commuter breakfast today, but I wasn\’t sure it was him till I saw the pic in this post. Wish I\’d shaken his hand.

I also have to add, I will NOT be sorry to see the back of all the ignorance and vitriol spewed over this project. Ick.

Thanks for the coverage, Jonathan! 🙂

Pete
Guest
Pete

I hope the media doesn\’t have a field day with this. For one, it reinforces the (myopic) drivers\’ argument that \’their\’ gas taxes are paying for bicycle infrastructure when it should be paying for more and better roads. Unfortunately I suspect the politics of the controversy will be focused on, and the commentary will be more about the players and the game than the project\’s goal.

Paul Souders
Guest

@Jose (#13): \”I think we should focus on the cheaper process of making those crossings safer\”

Amen, brother. The entire Flanders crossing seemed like kind of a rear-guard action against the car-dominated mentality of the other crossings. It struck me as kind of a victim mentality. \”If we can\’t get a safe crossing on Burnside, Everett or Glisan, we\’ll build our own damn crossing.\”

Also: if people are driving less, it\’ll be easier to devote a lane on Everett and Glisan for bikes and pedestrians.

Jill
Guest
Jill

Thanks for the effort, Sam!

It\’s great news that Portlanders are driving less. Looks like we need to raise the gas tax and look at other sources to maintain consistent infrastructure funding, if we assume/hope that gas tax revenue continues to decline.

Dan Kaufman
Guest

I\’m livid. My anger is directed at Tom Potter and Sho \”the crook\” Donzono, and all the fools that bought the spin.

A good project is now dead and there will still be missing sidewalks and potholes all over the city.

WTG Dipshits!

Horowitz
Guest
Horowitz

I feel this is the right decision. Maybe Sam can find some money to improve the connection to and the undercrossing of 405 a few blocks away. \’Course we\’ve been waiting for sidewalks in SW for 50 years now. Where\’s the love?

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

Spanky in #15 seems right on. I can appreciate the cost of concrete and steel going up, but the whole point of re-using the old bridge was the sustainability and the lower energy associated with using it.

The political equation has changed. There are tough times ahead and blowing 5.5 million on a pet project for the Pearl will become an albatros Sam\’s opponents will be able to use against him in the future.

If they were really serious about the project, PDOT would come up with the $50K and the extra to buy the bridge and mothball it for a few years until the funding for installation is avaialble.

Cameron
Guest
Cameron

Just yesterday I heard Adams arguing passionately for the Flanders bridge project on KBOO. about how it was important to create a bike boulevard there to SAVE LIVES… I can\’t believe that a day later he\’s the one to kill it. I also can\’t believe these funding issues haven\’t been around before yesterday- maybe he should have brought them up in the candidate interview. Honestly, and I know it\’s just a bridge, but I feel betrayed.

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

It sounds like Sam was realizing that this project was headed for major cost over runs kinda like the Tram. Thank Dog we didn\’t get halfway into this and then have to come up with another 5 million.
But hey if we can build a crossing there in the future for under 2 million we\’ll be thanked for saving the city some money. So let\’s make it a goal to get this done for far less than 5.5 million. All you folks who want this so bad pony up a couple hundred each and show the city we are serious and willing to spend our own money and save the rest of the taxpayers some money.
I\’ll be in for $50 maybe more later.
John

Paul
Guest
Paul

My solution is to take some key streets downtown and close 1 lane from each of those to car traffic and make them 2-way bike paths. On some of the streets you could extend the sidewalks at some point so cafes can have plenty of outdoor seating while still having room to walk.

There are plenty of low-traffic (and higher traffic) one and two-way streets downtown that don\’t or shouldn\’t accommodate that much space for auto traffic. Seems like the most cost-effecting way to improve the livability of our city.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Now Sho\’s got nothing left to oppose! Drat!

BikeR
Guest
BikeR

This smacks of political expediency. Anyone have property near the river that could hold a 1,198 foot long, 41 foot wide steel bridge? 2 points:

1. I will add to Spencer. PDOT or SOME OTHER entity should \”buy the bridge and mothball it for a few years until the funding for installation is avaialble.

The many reasons to do the project still exist.

2. Horowitz says, \”we\’ve been waiting for sidewalks in SW for 50 years now.\” SW should have mandated sidewalks as part of the development costs of those neighborhoods. Expediency has its costs.

2GOAT
Guest
2GOAT

Jonathan,
Thank you for your coverage on the Sauvie Re-use Bridge plan and for providing the forum for discussion.

I found it fascinating and educational to see the division and factions that developed over this project. This didn’t end up being just the usual motorist vs cyclist debate. Political maneuvering and hyperbole, sparked the community of Portland into a bitter eastside-westside, the “rich” vs the “poor”, “special interest” vs the “community” battle all under the guise of fiscal responsibility and equity.

As witnessed on this site, the cycling community was also divided on the need for this project and ultimately the need for any bridge at all.

I hope the defeat of the Sauvie Re-use project isn’t the portent of things to come. It was and is disappointing to view the vicious in-fighting over the ODOT, PDOT and Federal transportation budget scraps that are devoted to alternative transportation.

If you believe in cycling as a valid, legitimate mode of transportation and you believe you should be able to ride as responsibly and safely a possible, we need to work together to make our needs and rights known to our legislatures. We must unite and demand the investment into improving the education, infrastructure and the enforcement required to provide for safe cycling, walking and driving in our city, state and country.

Dat Nguyen
Guest

Bummer, I was hoping for a naming contest for the bridge. Tom Potter memorial bridge…

Russell
Guest
Russell

To those people arguing about the safety of the two other crossings:

It is not just about the crossings, it is about the entire stretch of road and the continuity of a safe bicycle connection from NW Portland to the Waterfront. The Everett and Glisan crossings are not horrific for the confident cyclists, nor is the rest of Everett and Glisan terribly dangerous for a confident vehicular cyclists. Glisan and Everett, however, as a whole, are not safe for slower, less confident cyclists; they are not safe for the elderly, for families, or for the infirm. They are narrow, high speed streets with narrow sidewalks, and no bicycle lanes. In order to use Flanders street, going east, you must make a right on 16th, cross three lanes of very fast traffic (traffic that is exiting from a freeway), make a left onto the Everett crossing, a left onto 15th, and right onto Flanders again. Not safe. Go west and add Glisan into the mix and it gets worse due to a significant incline (not significant for racers or hardcore cyclists, but should those be the only people allowed to commute by bike?). Johnson is a decent alternative but it has no connectivity to the Waterfront and for the groups mentioned above Johnson cannot be viewed as \”simply four blocks away.\”

It is incredibly sad that this project is being pulled, especially before all funding options were explored, perhaps the Federal Government could have given aid to this program. I hope that this engenders some greater love for Sam among those people who before were shaking their heads at him for being a \”tax and spend liberal.\”

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

did any of you proponents of this bridge REALLY think it was just going to cost 5.5M? honestly? a project of that magnitude? seriously?

seems to me as reality simply set it for Sam and his crew…

cheaper alternatives exist…no one bothered looking into those….

ecohuman.com
Guest

from BikePortland:

\”The Sauvie span re-use project did not rely on gas tax revenue directly, but Adams added that, “on the other side of the equation, the implication of high fuel prices is that all of our projects that are energy intensive to build are coming in higher than anticipated.”\”

let me get this straight. after Sam\’s powerful PowerPoint presentation supposedly \”addressed every concern of those opposed\”, he\’s suddenly decided to not do it because–gas costs too much?

so, no bike bridge to encourage reduced auto use, because of the cost of auto use?

brilliant.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

It\’s easy to see that the reason Adams decided this project had to be pulled, is that funding for phase two of the project could not be guaranteed to be accomplished within the remaining $1.7 million from $5.5 million dollar budget.

Kuney was prepared to guarantee his $3.8 mil part of the project.A contractor stepping up to do phase two for the $1.7 mil would have cinched the deal.

The amount of excessive driving; miles traveled, is just stupid. Of course there\’s going to be less money from that revenue source as gas gets more expensive and less available. People will still need roads regardless, so obviously, other funding methods will be found.

Some kind of pedestrian-bike bridge will undoubtedly be eventually built at Flanders. Growing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists will need that facility as part a more clearly defined route around the city that will ensure everyone\’s safety. It\’s the future that this is for more than anything. This particular situation was urgent because it was a one-time deal offering the ability to use the Sauvie Isl span.

I still would be very inspired if a contractor saw the opportunity here, and stepped forward with an offer to build phase two for the $1.7 million. Even if they had to do it at a loss, being a part of building such an important part of Portland\’s pedestrian-bike infrastructure would be an example of forward thinking whose positive community value could not go un-noticed.

girl on a bike
Guest
girl on a bike

Actually, Bahueh, those cheaper alternatives are being looked into and have been since day one. The larger point to be made is that cheaper isn\’t always better. I think having a bridge that is iconic, innovative, and more effective (with more capacity for more bikes and peds) beats \”cheaper\” by a mile. But let\’s wait for \”cheaper\” to happen … and when something finally gets moving on this four years from now, we\’ll see how much better it is than having something great happen now.

shooter
Guest
shooter

bahueh,
This was more than just a bridge. The opportunity to create a landmark, something interesting. Many don\’t believe the money was worth it and that\’s fine. But I believe it would have been something more than \”just a bridge\” and it would have benefited the area. Do I think it was worth the extra cost, yes. We don\’t know if it would have been possible to get bids for Phase Two. Just a reminder, Phase One was a not to exceed bid. We knew how much that would cost.

An alternative is already planned, the generic and narrow bridge that is planned to be built in the next few years. We had the opportunity to have something unique which was the reason to push and have this project go through now.

Nick
Guest
Nick

Nice how he did this after I just mailed in my vote for him. Not that it would have affected MY vote, but certainly it seems like a shifty political bait and switch.

jonno
Guest
jonno

Man, I\’m disappointed to hear this.

We still need a good bike connection up here in NW. Maybe this will be an opportunity to reexamine traffic patterns as a whole and make some big changes without the cost of a major project.

Two-way Everett and Glisan once again? Who knows…

Angela
Guest
Angela

I\’m more in Sam\’s camp than ever after this move.

I would have utilized that bridge 4 times a day with my family and we\’re now looking forward to dodging foot & car traffic for another few years. (and we live in N. Portland, not the Pearl.)

I DO understand how the picture changes with $ figures and Sam has proved, once again, his vision in supporting the re-use AND his prudence in pulling the plug.

This is NOT a matter of betrayal or politics.

J-on-Bike
Guest
J-on-Bike

Agree that this was more than just a bridge…the City of Portland is incurring loads of debt and the economy is not looking all that great.

The City of Portland and the current status quo of commissioners that run the various bureaus do not have a good track record of meeting *basic-needs* throughout all of Portland\’s hoods much less bringing in *special projects* to completion within budget (or generating the amount of projected tax revenue).

A well-planned proposal (you know, with a traffic study conducted with parameters for vehicle and bicycle efficiency and safety, a timeline, an budgeted project line item, a competed request for proposal) might be greeted with a lot less cynicism than an 11th hour political rush to move a bridge span whose decommissioning was well known years in advance.

Lastly, who says that a cheaper-alternative has to be any less iconic? This is supposed to be a town full of creative folks and an emerging world-class cycling city that, if the city issued an RFP (with proper prior planning) might elicit an equally iconic and innovative proposal or two.

laney
Guest
laney

Anybody know of any available grant money to apply for? Any donors itching to pay for bridge?

ralph
Guest
ralph

The city just voted to add another $18.5 million to the computer upgrade project. Raising the price from an initial $31M to $49.5M.

The Burnside-Couch Couplet just went up $4M in price and the city is short $3M on that budget. The original estimate for this project was $12M, it\’s now going to cost over $27M.

For once Adams did the right thing on this underfunded project, canceled it.

Russell
Guest
Russell

We should see if we could get one of the major businesses in the area to donate it. Hell, I\’m all for corporate advertising in this case, maybe put a big Nike Swoosh across it and have them fund 50% of the project? Or what about funding it like the humane society does and sell bricks. The bricks could be inlaid on the bridge footings on either side.

Aaron
Guest

I put the blame on this solely on Mayor Pothead. Pedestrians and children will be killed for lack of a safe highway crossing, but he did a fantastic job of making his buddy look better than Sam.
Congrats Mr. Mayor.
Good thing you never actually stood up at a BTA event extolling how much you love bikes (oh wait, you did).

2GOAT
Guest
2GOAT

#17 Justin, try reading the fine print.
There was a small box in the Oregonian today that pointed out despite the Big-ticket mistake in the original $15.5 million price estimate for the TRAM, whatever Sam did in negotiating the original deal protected the citizens of Portland from covering the difference. “PORTLAND TAX PAYERS ONLY PAID $8.5 MILLION “of the final tab for $57 Million.
Unfortunately, Sam and his staff could not find similar protections in a commitment to finance the Sauvie re-use project.
So stop whining about the TRAM!!!

woogie
Guest
woogie

Aaron,

Stop the hyperbole.

\”Pedestrians and children will be killed for lack of a safe highway crossing\”

And people wonder why the general population doesn\’t understand the cycling community. Could it be this type of sky is falling statement is dropped at every instance to back up claims for more bike infrastructure.

Passion is great but a logical well thought out presentation of fact is what is needed.