Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Adams: Final thoughts on Sauvie and the “massive new transportation challenge facing our City”

Posted by on May 8th, 2008 at 8:44 am

Sam Adams interview-2.jpg

Commissioner Adams during an
interview in October 2007.
(Photo © J. Maus)

In a letter sent out this morning to subscribers of his email newsletter, City Commissioner Sam Adams summed up PDOT’s budget woes and made some final statements on the defunct Sauvie Island Bridge re-use plan (I think the statement will also be published as an Op-Ed in the Oregonian but haven’t confirmed that yet).

In the letter, Adams writes that the combination of high fuel prices, the increasing cost of materials and declining Gas Tax revenue (because Oregonians are driving less) has created a “massive new transportation challenge facing our City.”

According to Adams, PDOT is facing a $2.7 million “current service budget hole for the fiscal year starting in July [2008].” Here’s what the letter said about how that gap will effect about 40 projects in PDOT’s pipeline:

“…the skyrocketing cost of oil has put existing estimates for transportation projects out-of-whack… Most of these projects used inflationary cost estimates that have proven to be low. Higher costs for petroleum–based materials like asphalt and tar and for materials that take lots of energy to produce like concrete and steel mean higher project costs.”

Adams then writes that he’ll ask City Council “to fill the $2 million budget shortfall for next year.”

He also explained that the new budget “blows a $30 to $40 million hole” in his Safe, Sound, and Green Streets Initiative that he’ll put in front of voters in November.

And in what will perhaps be his final comments on the Sauvie Island Bridge reuse project, he re-iterated that he doesn’t feel confident “we can bring this in at the $5.5 million I have promised” and he adds that, “I will continue to pursue the construction of a new cheaper bridge over I-405 within the next three to five years.”

Then, he directly addresses Mayor Potter’s criticisms of the project (emphasis mine);

“But I want to make some comments about the bridge project before we leave the issue.

The recycling of the Sauvie Island bridge was sadly–and unnecessarily–ensnared by political gamesmanship that did no credit to the critics, and obscured an important issue for the public.

Last week, Mayor Tom Potter wrote an opinion article in these pages saying that we don’t need a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over I-405 at Flanders Street. Mind you, this is a project that he voted for on 4 separate occasions. In fact, over the last six years two city councils have voted for this numerous times.

But in his article, Mayor Potter argues that the West Burnside and Northwest Everett and Glisan streets are safe and that bikers and walkers in Northwest Portland do not need a bridge dedicated only to them across the I-405 ditch.

That’s flat out wrong. The West Burnside, Glisan and Everett streets injure and kill more bikers and walkers than any other street corridor in Portland: 280 injured and 15 dead over the past nine years. And I believe the Mayor was also wrong to use this issue to pit one part of Portland against the other…

…A bike and pedestrian crossing at NW Flanders has always been about safety. And while recycling the Sauvie Island Bridge may not be the means, I am committed to finding a safe way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross I-405. I have asked transportation to study potential improvements we could make with little cost to address safety issues in the Burnside/Everett/Glisan corridor in the short term.

— Read the full letter here.

— More on PDOT’s action plan for dealing with this budget situation can be found at CommissionerSam.com.

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  • john May 8, 2008 at 9:19 am

    One thing I have noticed, are the roads aren\’t lasting that long especially on the bus routes. The buses are doing serious damage to the roads. When it comes time to replace buses, serious consideration needs to be given to buying lighter weight buses, or buses with larger tires (for less contact pressure). The city or county should subsidize or etc to tri-met for these more expensive buses as the road repair savings would be huge. Smoother \”gentle\” driving techniques would also help.

    Get rid of Studded tires!! There are more effective winter stud-less tires out there now anyway. Or at the very least allow them only if the forecast is for ice. (costs almost nothing to take them on and off). Exception could be some taxis and some emergency vehicles. And if you think you need them to drive on mt hood, what you actually need is a driving class, or some quick on / off chains. (but even normal chains I can mount in about 3 minutes, sure beats doing millions of dollars of damage, i am sick of subsidizing rich people driving around in fancy volvos, audis, etc with studded tires so they can drive 75 mph on ice.)

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  • rixtir May 8, 2008 at 9:33 am

    So Sam wants PDOT to study options for potential safety improvements at little cost?

    Once more: Close the Everett and/or Glisan street bridges to auto traffic, install appropriate traffic control devices (including red light cameras) at the bridge ends, and you\’ve got a bike/pedestrian crossing over the I-405.

    If motorists need to get across, they can use Burnside, or they can build a new crossing at, say, Flanders…As soon as those motorized freeloaders can figure out how to pay for it without diverting funds away from sidewalk construction in outer east Portland.

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  • kasandra May 8, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I\’m sad to see the Flanders project off the table for now. But I want to give Sam and his team big props for this: It\’s hard to change your mind in a public forum without being accused of waffling or being manipulative or manipulated. But how the heck are you supposed to make good public policy if you aren\’t willing to respond to new information?

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  • Pete May 8, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Hey John, I\’m one of those \”rich people\” driving a fancy Audi (when not riding a Synapse, TCR, Tassajara, or Sirrus Elite) and do my fair share of subsidizing roads. Six years ago I was turned onto studless snow tires and am a convert – the chemistry behind the rubber is the biggest factor. I live in Hood River and work in Beaverton and grew up in the Northeast, so am no stranger to inclement driving and can tell you studs are misunderstood, overrated, and just plain dangerous on dry roads. Unfortunately tire retailers have wider margins on studded tires with less expensive compounds, so I doubt you\’ll see their lobbies let studs become illegal in Oregon (it\’s been tried already). I talked three people out of studs this past winter when a certain large well-known local retailer was recommending otherwise.

    I like your observations and suggestions.

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  • Kronda May 8, 2008 at 10:24 am

    The unfortunate Potter era reminds me of when Clinton said he would get rid of \”Don\’t Ask, Don\’t Tell.\” We know how that worked out. Another turn-coat bites the dust. Shame on him and good riddance.

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  • rixtir May 8, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Potter is a do-nothing blow-hard who won\’t lift a finger to get the sidewalks he recently championed so fervently poured before– or after– he leaves office.

    Don\’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya, Tom.

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  • Dag May 8, 2008 at 10:57 am

    It\’s a shame that when gas tax revenues go down, a bike/ped facility is the first project under the axe. Clearly we need some other way to fund our transportation infrastructure.

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  • rixtir May 8, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Maybe, Dag, but of at least equal importance, we need to stop prioritizing the construction and maintenance of automobile infrastructure, and move full-steam ahead on bike, pedestrian and public transit infrastructure.

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  • East Portlander May 8, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    It\’s about time we tax auto-driving for the externalities automobiles cause on everyone else. Current auto taxes don\’t even cover basic maintenance of roads. Then there\’s the air and water pollution that others have to endure, national security money spent on protection of foreign oil, waste of land devoted t parking, destruction of natural habitat caused by pollution, and all this on top of the intangible social costs of an increasingly isolated and privatized auto-oriented society. Just because single-occupant vehicle trips are the most dominant form of trips make them ok. It\’s because drivers aren\’t force to pay the FULL price of driving that automobiles have flourished..

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  • Jeff Bernards May 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    There are many great points here (1,4,9). I asked Sam Adams about bringing up the studded tire issue as a way to show he cared about saving the average tax payer some money. He said he didn\’t want people to think that banning studded tires would solve the road problem, I think it\’s a start. Seems like 95% of us don\’t use studded tires. He & the state haved obviously ignored a preventable solution to one of the causes why our roads are falling apart. The recent NY times article makes the point that the more you drive the less you pay, for what you actually use. That\’s why I do not support the Green & Safe Streets tax/fee proposal that small business and residential water bills should pay for the roads, if you drive, you should pay. Should cyclist pay? or should cars be required to provide a safe alternative from their activity? The gas tax doesn\’t cover the cost of roads because the legislators haven\’t raised the tax in 12 years or so. It\’s time for the state to stop spending general fund money to cover road repairs, basically taking money from vital programs to subsidize cars. When I bike across I-84 during rush hour there seems to be no lack of people who could support the highways that their using.

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  • rixtir May 9, 2008 at 9:51 am

    #9– Let\’s not forget to include the externalized health costs, ranging from asthma to cancer, that result from air and water pollution, nor all of the costs yet to come due from greenhouse gas emissions. If drivers had to pay the TRUE costs of driving out of their own pockets, nobody could afford to drive.

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  • rixtir May 9, 2008 at 10:00 am

    #10– Drivers in this town are constantly complaining that cyclists don\’t pay their way. I think what you suggest– a user fee– is a great idea. Calculate the fee based on Gross Vehicle Weight and miles driven. We can even throw in a global warming fee if we want. Because bicycles don\’t actually cause any damage, and there\’s no way to measure miles ridden, start with a nominal flat fee for bicycles, and charge by weight and miles driven (and fuel type and fuel efficiency for global warming) for autos. That WOULD make more sense than a flat fee on the water bill, which would only externalize the costs of the most egregious damagers of our roads and atmosphere onto all Portlanders.

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  • zilfondel May 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    A flat $.10 per mile, per pound fee would work quite well, actually.

    I calculated that I would pay approximately $.59 to ride my bicycle 10 miles, while a car driver would pay about $12 to drive 20 miles. Each day.

    Sound good? Actually, this would generate quite a bit of revenue!

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  • wsbob May 9, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    \”….while a car driver would pay about $12 to drive 20 miles.\” zilfondel

    Now that would induce a revolution of sorts. Imagine how many people currently driving that could not possibly afford that amount of a fee to get to work, shop, etc. They\’d simply have to find an alternative.

    The world economy of the last 70-80 years has been built on excessive consumption of fuel, and now, maybe that\’s starting to change. One way or another, many people are going to have to cut back on fuel consumption.

    Tonight at the Winco out here in Beaverton, I saw this young, overweight person walk up to the checkout line pulling her groceries in one of those plastic kids wagons. I was thinking to myself, \’Now there\’s a first\’.

    I\’d like to think this person was walking in from apartments nearby, instead of driving the car three tenths of a mile. Maybe not, but it\’s that kind of thing I\’ll bet we\’ll be seeing more of because of oil prices. More people walking and biking will be the thing that brings about more and better pedestrian-bike infrastructure than exists now.

    All the people living on the hills around Portland might have a hard time if studded tires were banned.

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  • Chase May 10, 2008 at 12:59 am

    “A flat $.10 per mile, per pound fee would work quite well, actually” -zilfondel

    Yes, but a per-pound per-mile fee would kill Tri-met. Those busses are HEAVY, and unlike the private motorist Tri-met doesn’t exactly have the option of driving less. Those fees would result in higher fares, and transit passengers are already crying foul over $2.00 fares. Unless of course Tri-met is made exempt, which doesn’t make sense given the amount of damage to the road those busses cause (see #1). The entire point of the fee is to assess users for the damaged they cause, and if you exempt the single largest user, the whole idea kind of falls apart.
    Nice try though.

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  • Jeff Bernards May 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

    What part of a gas tax is so hard for people to understand? Bad gas mileage-pay more, big car/truck-pay more, drive alot-pay more. The infrastructure is already in place to collect the added money, so 100% of the increase goes to road repair/maintenance. When Portland raised the water bill years ago, people conserved, so the city raised the water bill again to it\’s costs. I think water is as \”vital\” as gas & road infrastruture.

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