Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 14th, 2009 at 2:51 pm
“… bridge planners must examine the bicycle-pedestrian plans very closely to see how costs could be shaved… The core purpose of the project has been and, we predict, will remain getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly.”
The Oregonian Editorial Board published an editorial piece today that calls the funding of a bicycle and pedestrian facility on the new I-5 bridge into question.
In the editorial, The Oregonian states their skepticism about projections of how many people will cross the bridge by bike and foot, saying the numbers being produced by project staff “deserve very close scrutiny because of another figure looming over the project: $100 million.”
(Just for perspective, $100 million is about 2% of the total cost of the project, which is estimated at upwards of $4.2 billion.)
The Oregonian points out that as CRC staffers look for places to cut spending, the bike/ped facility should not be spared the axe. They write:
“Still, with the entire $4 billion bridge project now entering a critical “value engineering” phase, bridge planners must examine the bicycle-pedestrian plans very closely to see how costs could be shaved.”
The editorial points out that, “some will argue that the bicycle and pedestrian paths on the bridge should be eliminated altogether.” They then provide statements from TriMet GM Fred Hansen and the Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission that that is not at all likely to happen.
“Maybe so,” they conclude, and then there’s this,
“The core purpose of the project has been and, we predict, will remain getting trains, cars and trucks across the river more quickly. Sharp and careful “value engineering” and political planning must keep that thought at the project’s center.”
Wow. Did The Oregonian say that moving human-powered traffic over the bridge is outside of the “core purpose of the project”? I don’t get it.
It’s worth noting that the editorial includes one incorrect assumption. They write “some bike advocates would prefer for the two tiers to be flipped”. From what I know, however, bike advocates and bike insiders in Portland are overwhelmingly in support of putting people on bikes and on foot below the deck.
In fact, at this week’s City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting, eight of nine members present voted for the under-deck option (the other member abstained).
It’s also interesting that this editorial came out now. At that BAC meeting, David Parisi, the CRC staffer in charge of the project’s bike and ped path design had come to get a formal recommendation from the City’s BAC. As the committee debated making any recommendation of a specific design because they felt uncomfortable with the options (and the project in general to a certain extent) he issued a threat — basically saying, “Come to consensus soon or I can’t promise that we will continue to leave the bike/ped path funding untouched.”
We’ll have more on this next week, but it’s interesting to see where this might lead. Mayor Adams has promised repeatedly that the bike/ped facility will be “World Class”. As the budget knife sharpens, how firm will he remain on that promise? Will the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) speak out forcefully against this?