Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Sellwood Bridge update: BTA supports new vehicle registration fee

Posted by on October 15th, 2009 at 11:04 am

Sellwood Bridge Tour with Richard M.-8

New vehicle fees would raise over
one-third the total cost to
replace the Sellwood Bridge.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Funding to replace the Selwood Bridge is coming together. As per HB 2001 — the transportation funding package that passed the Oregon legislature this past session — Multnomah County is considering a new, $19 motorized vehicle registration fee that will raise $127 million to help pay for the bridge.

“The BTA absolutely supports raising money for new bicycle infrastructure in such ways that bicyclists can also contribute.”
— Scott Bricker, executive director of the BTA

According to a fact sheet issued by Multnomah County (PDF here), the fee would be in place for 20 years, it would apply to 577,240 motorized vehicles registered in the county (trucks weighing 26,000 lbs. are exempt), and County residents would start paying the fee in Fall of 2010.

At a public hearing held last week, Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Executive Director Scott Bricker testified in support of the vehicle fee.

In a letter to Commissioners, Bricker pointed out that in a 2005 BTA survey, the Sellwood Bridge was cited as the “most insurmountable and oft-cited physical barrier”. Bricker also strongly supported the vehicle fee, stating that in a separate survey of more than 2,000 “bicyclists”, the BTA found that 9 out of 10 of them owned at least one car and 2 out of 5 own two cars or more. Based on that, Bricker testified:

“While bicycles, as vehicles, have a near-negligible impact on existing roadways, the BTA absolutely supports raising money for new bicycle infrastructure in such ways that bicyclists can also contribute. A vehicle registration fee is one of those way.”

The cross-section of the locally preferred alternative chosen in February.

A locally preferred alternative for the bridge design was selected back in February. It includes two, 12-foot lanes for motor vehicle traffic, a 6 1/2-foot wide bike traffic lane, and a 12-foot sidewalk.

Total bridge cost is estimated to be $330 million and the rest would be paid through a mix of sources including federal funds, a similar (yet smaller) vehicle fee expected to be enacted by Clackamas County, and existing County bridge coffers. If all these funding sources come through, construction will begin in late 2012 and be completed in 2016.

Multnomah County commissioners are considering the new vehicle registration fee at a hearing today and a second hearing on October 22nd. Check out SellwoodBridge.org for more information.

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  • Mike October 15, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I’d rather pay a $19 toll per crossing, bike and motorized vehicle. That’s how often I use the bridge. Of course it is only money and since these are plentiful times, why not spend money on infrastructure I do not use.
    Forward with the CRC too!
    Or – perhaps we figure out a way to use the CRC money on Sellwood? It is certainly the biggest bottleneck in that corridor of crossing the river?

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  • Nick V October 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I’m missing something:

    Barrier from what?

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  • Diego October 15, 2009 at 11:29 am

    @Nick V

    I believe the “most insurmountable and oft-cited physical barrier” description refers to how difficult it is to cross from SE to SW Portland (and vice-versa) via bicycle or on foot.

    You have to use either the Sellwood Bridge, or the Ross Island Bridge, and both of them are dangerous crossings for bicycles and pedestrians. Particularly so for the Sellwood Bridge, as it has narrow vehicle lanes and only one narrow sidewalk on one side, which must be shared by bicyclists and pedestrians.

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  • Bill Stites October 15, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Would love to see the lane allocations be updated with a small buffer zone between the bike lane and the motorist lane.
    Especially crossing a bridge, cars and trucks will likely be going pretty fast, as you get a straight shot with no enforcement in sight.

    Just saying that the new buffer zones seem like a really effective way to create more space between cyclists and passing motorists.
    It helps that there’s no door zone to worry about.

    If I were redlining, I would humbly propose taking 24″ from the sidewalk/path, and create a 24″ buffer zone between the cyclist and the motorist.

    I wonder if there is going to be any grating on the bridge?

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  • Gabriel October 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I bike across this bridge almost everyday.

    For people who don’t know about the current bridge – the roadway is narrow and offers no shoulder at all. Any car attempting to pass you puts you in real danger. There is a “sidewalk” on the north side that is extremely narrow. However, it is the preferred crossing for both cyclist and pedestrians.

    If there are a lot of people on the bridge you have to frequently stop and let them pass. People can find this frustrating. However, I find it less of a “barrier” then a possible toll (or lack of a bridge).

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  • Nick V October 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    @ Gabriel #5,

    I like to think that I’m a patient cyclist, but coming to a COMPLETE stop does sound like a pain.

    I’ve biked over the Sellwood only once during my 11 years here in Portland and I white-knuckled it the whole way. I’m more of a Hawthorne/Steel Bridge guy.

    Just the cracks and the safety rating (2 out of 100 if I recall?) lead me to believe that replacing the Sellwood Bridge should be very high on PDX’s to-do list.

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  • Oliver October 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    What about Clackamas County?

    I ride across this bridge 9 or 10 times a year, and I will grudgingly support an increase in the registration fee for my motor vehicles, because I love more taxes (actually because it’s necessary, and I’m obviously a commie)

    But what about all the commuters from Clacalacky who use the bridge twice a day in their cars?

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  • Grimm October 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Its interesting pedestrians are given as much room as cars, but cyclists about half as much. Im curious how much foot traffic to bike traffic crosses the bridge. Considering there is not a ton to walk to currently on the west side. I would like to see 1′ take off the sidewalk and used as an additional buffer zone for bicycles, and even put down some little bumps on the car side to help keep them out of the cycle lane. Dont get me wrong, two sidewalks and a cycle lane sounds like a blessing compared to the current bridge.

    I feel like that area of town has opportunity for better development, but the speed and hectic-ness of of sellwood bridge/macadam really detours anyone from doing anything but getting the hell out. I dont even like driving the two.

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  • Laura October 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    The County Commissioners passed the first reading,unanimously, today. There is a second vote scheduled for next Thursday.

    Clackamas County is considering passing a motor vehicle registration fee as well.

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  • Laura October 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    @Grimm – the “sidewalk” is meant to be a shared path. The concept, as presented to the Community Task Force, is that cyclists who may be slower, less confident, or maybe families with kids, would ride on the path. Cyclists who are faster and/or more confident would ride in the bike lane.

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  • Eric Miller October 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Bill & Grimm,
    The sidewalks are considered a standard width of 12′, and the city of Portland wants all new sidewalks to meet this standard. It seemed like this was not a negotiable factor when widths were being discussed.

    I raised the point of having a buffer between bikers on the shoulder and vehicles on the roadway with county engineers at the Open House a couple of weeks ago. I believe having a physical barrier would be ideal, maximizing safety for bikers. They responded that there is not sufficient width to have a buffer zone, and that a physical barrier could make it difficult for cars to pull out for emergency reasons, or for maintenance vehicles to be on the bridge and not have to stop traffic.

    The “buffers” they are exploring are: 1. raised bumps between the road and shoulder, 2. 2″ raised shoulder, and 3. painting the shoulder and roadway different colors. I’ve heard that there are European models of bike and roadway separation worth exploring.

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  • Matt Picio October 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Mike and Oliver – The Sellwood Bridge is owned by Multnomah County. Clackamas County funds can’t be used to pay for it, neither can CRC funds – I-5 is an Interstate (Federal) highway, and IIRC the bridge is actually owned by ODOT (someone correct me if I’m wrong – regardless of ownership, it’s not county, so the funds can’t be moved).

    The only ways to pay for it are either through a Multnomah County tax, or through user fees (tolls).

    Mike, you may not use the bridge, but thousands of other people who bike do, and the bridge even as unfriendly as it is today sees at least 100 cyclists daily. Maybe this project doesn’t benefit you personally, but if we based every project on whether those directly affected by it could pay for it, most projects could never be built.

    You might say to that, “good – don’t build any of them”, but think about the ramifications of not building some of these projects. Think about how many cars would be dumped onto McLoughlin and the Ross Island bridge without the Sellwood. As for cyclists specifically, ODOT is about to close the Oregon City Bridge for 2 years, making the Sellwood the only river crossing for bicycles between downtown Portland and Canby. That’s a pretty important route!

    But, you know, why should we care about Clackamas County cyclists? Nobody bikes from Milwaukie or Oak Grove anyway, right?

    I biked from there for 4 years. There are people outside the City of Portland who need to bike, too. This project will make it a lot safer for them, and for pedestrians, and reduce user conflicts on the bridge. It’s worth the cost.

    CRC, on the other hand isn’t worth it at any cost. While we could use a new bike/ped/transit bridge, the current bridge is fine for future traffic needs. Give it some seismic upgrades and call it good.

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  • Kelley October 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    As long as a bus can go across it, I’ll be happy. I consider that a “huge barrier” when the 70 stops running for the night.

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  • Grumbley October 15, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I swear this city is going to eat me out of house and home. $19 more dollars to register my car for the next 20 years!?

    It is nice to know that the money I donated to the BTA was used to motivate a motion that now forces me to pay more money to a different organization. (Hey BTA, curious why I didn’t renew…hint hint)

    I think now I understand why motorists get so angry with the “cycling community” when they are required to subsidize an alternative mode of transportation. I am not suggesting that biking is bad, I am stating that motorists (in addition to paying property taxes, etc.) are being charged an additional fee to replace this bridge with “added” infrastructure.

    What’s next? Tax on air?

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  • cyclist October 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Matt Picio:

    You’re wrong about Clackamas County funds not being able to pay for the bridge. Yes, Multnomah County owns and operates the bridge, but there’s an agreement in place that will allow money to come from Clackamas County car registration fees (and also includes $8 million from the City of Portland).

    Ted Wheeler (Multnomah County Chair) said, “We’ve tried to be as fair as possible, and that’s led to the regional collaboration between the city, county, state, Clackamas County, the Federal Government.”

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  • Paul October 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Grumbley, taxing air would be silly. Taxing 4000 lb. vehicles another $19/year is nothing. Vehicle registrations barely cost anything in this state, gas is still super cheap, there’s no sales tax…cars are practically free here.

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  • E October 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Replacing this bridge will benefit EVERYONE. Ample pedestrian and bike space on the bridge benefits EVERYONE. Don’t use the Sellwood? Someone else will use a new, improved Sellwood Bridge and get out of your way on whatever route you do use. Don’t ride a bike? Every bike on the bridge is one less car in front of you on your route. Can’t pay $19/yr? Ditch the car and get a bike.

    If you don’t like paying for infrastructure, wtf are you doing living in a city??? The bridge would have to be replaced, bikes or no bikes. You could ban them and STILL pay an extra $19 a year, but you’d have more traffic to sit in. Not to mention, the current bridge’s problems are all due to car traffic. If we made it a bike-ped only bridge, it wouldn’t need to be replaced at all.


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  • buzz October 15, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I know the bridge is going to have to be replaced, but I am still not sure why Clackamas County residents are going to have to pony up $5 compared to the $19 for the Multnomah residents. That bridge does benefit everyone; I get that. But, when the majority of users are from Clackamas County, I am not sure why Multnomah has to pay more.

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  • Zaphod October 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve not rolled across in a few years now (scary how time flies) … I recall it’s a 25mph zone so my question:
    Is it legal to bike in the roadway taking the lane on this section? How sane is it?

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  • wsbob October 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    “That bridge does benefit everyone; I get that. But, when the majority of users are from Clackamas County, I am not sure why Multnomah has to pay more.” buzz #18

    Buzz, good point. On what basis; numbers or otherwise, is the registration fee share for each of the two counties for the bridge’s construction costs being determined?

    Are the people that will be paying the proposed fee in these counties going to fee they’re getting their money’s worth? Isn’t it true that the motor vehicle capacity for the replacement bridge being proposed will not be increased from its present motor vehicle capacity?

    In the Oregon’s most recent legislative session, Kulongoski’s signed a bill approving an increase in motor vehicle regisration fees that would be dedicated to statewide road repairs. I’m guessing it’s going to amount to about an extra $100 over what it is now. Multnomah County vehicle registrants get to figure an additional $19 to that expense for the bridge. Fun. The rest of the metro area vehicle registrants can count themselves lucky that they aren’t being forced to pay for this bridge as well.

    A toll system, with exemptions for neighborhood residents, would be a far more fair system for funding the construction of the replacement bridge.

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  • Chad October 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm


    Just curious why you feel neighborhood residents should get exempted from the toll? They would be the primary beneficiaries, so why not pay for it? If they don’t want to pay a toll, they can use a different bridge for free.

    Additionally , where exactly do you draw the line with regards to who lives in the neighborhood and who doesn’t?

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  • RonC October 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Zaphod asked: “Is it legal to bike in the roadway taking the lane on this section? How sane is it?”

    Sure it is. That’s what I do when I ride over the Sellwood, but you definitely feel the pressure from traffic to keep the speed up. Particularly on the up-hill section of the bridge before you hit the crest.

    I like the new design, and would gladly pay a vehicle registration surcharge to get this done. Then all we need is a path along the old trolley line to Lake Oswego to sweeten the pot. To be able to ride Springwater from downtown to the Sellwood bridge and then south to LO (on another path paralleling the river) would be really sweet.

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  • Nick V October 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm


    A path along the old trolley line or next to 43/Macadam would be one if the best rides in the city if it ever got built!

    I’m about to spend the rest of my workday envisioning the scenery and rolling hills…….

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  • wsbob October 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Chad, would Sellwood neighborhood residents really be the primary beneficiaries of a replacement bridge? Are they the primary beneficiaries of the existing bridge, or might it be another type bridge user?

    The neighborhood has to put up with daily commuter traffic that doesn’t live in the neighborhood or stop to do any business in the neighborhood. What I’ve consistently heard, is that this type of traffic amounts to the lion’s share of traffic across the bridge and through Sellwood, and adversely affects that neighborhoods livability. That factor is why the motor vehicle capacity of the new bridge was generally limited to that of the existing bridge.

    If that’s not true, then certainly, neighborhood residents should pay their fare share. I feel that exempting neighborhood residents from paying a toll…if one were a implemented to fund bridge construction…helps offset the negative affects of being obliged to host ‘thru-traffic’ infrastructure.

    A neighborhood bridge toll exemption might also help encourage people to reside in the neighborhood, rather than commute from outside…in many instances it seems…far outside the neighborhood. Helping in small ways such as this, to encourage people to live close-in rather than commute from far away, could also help to discourage tendencies towards suburban sprawl.

    If not primary beneficiaries, Sellwood residents would still benefit from a new bridge (the existing one does have structural problems), so it wouldn’t be completely unfair for them to also pay a toll with everyone else, or at least a portion of the toll considering related factors.

    The city of Portland has designated boundaries for all of its neighborhoods. The Sellwood Neighborhood boundaries represent the lines I had in mind to determine who is a resident and who isn’t.

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  • BicycleDave October 15, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I commute (from Oak Grove) across this bridge daily and can’t wait until it’s replaced.

    I think we should pay for it through bonds, take 2 feet off each shared path, plant money trees as a barrier between cars and bikes and when the money ripens use it to pay back the bonds!

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  • Lazy Spinner October 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Having the BTA endorse a tax on drivers seems a bit ridiculous and will just add fuel to bike haters fire. I could only imagine the uproar here if the situation were reversed.

    “As CEO of AAA, I fully endorse a $19 annual registration fee on all bicycles in Multnomah County to finance the building of the CRC.”

    Why would Bricker even offer any comment beyond the obvious safety and mobility needs for cyclists? After their awful session in Salem and the recent accounting issues, I am very concerned about the BTA’s leadership internally and on issues.

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  • Afro Biker October 15, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    wow. Another tax.

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  • BicycleDave October 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I took the lane on the way home heading East. Spun it up as fast as I could so as not to delay the driver behind me. I couldn’t keep up with the cars in front of me, but stayed relatively close. He never passed on the bridge, but when I turned right just after the bridge he turned right behind me. As he pulled next to me on that dark street next to Tom Dwyer Motors he slowed down. “Uh-oh” I thought. But I was wrong. He said “thanks for the effort! I mean it. I’m all for bikes.”

    So I thought I’d pass it on. Thanks to all who bike. I’m all for bikes too.

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  • drew October 16, 2009 at 1:42 am

    I ride the Sellwood bridge roadway 6 to 10 times a week; doing it about 4 years. I stay to the right so traffic can pass me, and ride at a normal pace. Pickups and vans can pass me while traffic is going the other way. Most people go slow and give me adequate room. There IS enough room to pass if I ride close to the right.
    In all this time I had one close call; an elderly driver. And was buzzed by a couple of speedsters trying to teach me to be scared of cars. but thats about it. If a crash/injury ever occurred there, there would be LOTS of witnesses.
    Maybe twice a month I get an epithet by a driver by a personality disorder. Have not had anything thrown at me though.
    If a flatbed, or something too big to pass me sits behind me and honks, I take the lane. Once, after doing that, a trucker yelled at me to “take the bike lane”. Wouldn’t that be nice. Another time I got a lecture that I had to ride on the sidewalk. There are signs on the bridge at either end that indicate bikes are allowed on the roadway.
    I think riding on the sidewalk is riskier than riding on the bridge. If you fall off the sidewalk, you get run over. On the roadway, you get treated as traffic. It’s not as hazardous as you would think to ride the bridge roadway, and I wish more people would do it. It’s too bad most bikers feel intimidated about it.

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  • Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Yes the Sellwood neighborhood residents benefit from the new bridge.

    They’re the ones bitching about the bridge closing for two years and impacting them.

    Less traffic, less customers for business, less money coming in, less businesses stay open, less businesses, less quaint atmosphere……there goes the neighborhood.

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  • Diego October 16, 2009 at 7:19 am


    Spot on. That has been my experience crossing the bridge as well.

    As always, the people to blame for a city’s failing infrastructure are the free-riders who live outside the city limits and pay much lower taxes, but still work in the city and use the city services and infrastructure. In this case, it’s the Clackamas, Lake Oswego, West Linn crowd, but similar problems happen with the other suburbs.

    Pie in the sky, but there should be a bridge toll for everyone who lives outside of Multnomah county – this would help fix the serious negative externality that suburbs (and their free-riding residents) create.

    That, or Multnomah county should annex the other counties and force their residents to pay for what they use haha.

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  • toddistic October 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I love how everyone is complaining about vehicle registration taxes when Oregon has one of the lowest registration fees in the country. When I lived in CA, it cost me $180-$200 per vehicle every two years. The registration fee was calculated based on the value of the vehicle. I heard people with hummers were paying over $1000 for registration. Those with more money to spend on a car pay more for their registration – just like normal taxes.

    I fully support the vehicle tax and think BTAs rationalization was fully supported, most cyclists have cars therefore are contributing. This is their carefully crafted debunk of the bikes dont pay their share arguement. Kudos BTA you may make me a supporter out of me yet!

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  • Dave October 16, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I have to ask this–why don’t the gutless wonders in both state legislatures (OR and WA) coordinate a simultaneous $0.50/gallon in both states’ gasoline tax to fund infrastructure repair? It seems stupid to have continous ad-hoc charges for specific projects instead of developing a larger regional fund.

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  • Mike October 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Taxing 4000# vehicles is ok.
    Taxing 150# vehicles is ok.
    Taxing the 18-30# vehicle is not ok!
    Paying for the Sellwood somore bikes can get across is ok
    Paying for the CRC so more everything can get across is not ok.
    Just getting the facts straight in my head.
    Additional traffic through Sellwood is ok.
    Additional traffic through NoPo is not ok.

    Like I said, it is only money and we are all rolling in it.

    Just don’t you even dare suggest a $19 fee per bike registration!

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  • kenny October 16, 2009 at 8:39 am

    toddisitic is absolutely correct. The registration fees are silly cheap here.

    I was wondering why they did not start charging based on type o vehicle/value/a extra charge for gas guzzlers/etc?

    A straight across the board increase seems like a quick fix in order to receive more money.

    I cannot help but think my mother in law’s 18 mpg Ford Explorer should cost double what my 45 mpg 87 Chevy Sprint costs.

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  • Bjorn October 16, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I just wish that the tax could be usage based, ie gas tax instead of tacked onto vehicle registrations. Road wear isn’t caused by owning a car it is caused by driving a car… The state also really pushed for increased title fees instead of increased gas taxes this year and I think it is a mistake to go that direction. Somehow an extra penny a gallon seems to be a lot harder politically than 19 bucks every two years though.

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  • Dave October 16, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Mike #34, I’d be completely happy to pay a weight/mileage tax on my bike–just charge me the same amount of money, per vehicle/pound, that you charge me for my car. $0.10/lb./year for bicycles. A $25 lb bike would have a $2.50 per year charge, a 3000 lb car $300.00. Just base it on vehicle weight, period, at the same rate.

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  • cyclist October 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Anonymous #30: Sellwood residents aren’t bitching about the bridge closing for two years because the bridge will *not* close at all during bridge construction. It will be built in such a way that two traffic lanes will be maintained throughout the construction period (much like 99e near the Ross Island Bridge has remained open while they rebuild the bridges over the train tracks).

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  • Mike October 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    That is not the proposal. The proposal is $19 on on all motorized vehicles. This would mean that I would pay the same for my scooter or motorcycle (45+ mpg)that Stumptown or Whole Foods pays for their Sprinter (20-22 mpg).

    As I understand it, the bridge is not being rebuilt to accomodate more motor vehicle traffic. Why not hold cyclists to the same standard as a 50cc scooter? Are you going to tell me that a 100 pound scooter creates that much more wear on the road than a bicycle? Can this amount even be neasured in decades? or are we talking centuries?

    I agree with you that the fee should be based on weight, regardless of motor. Either that or make it a County income tax, that would be fair. Then the walkers could pay their share too. However, that is not the proposal, and that is not what the BTA is supporting, and if there was a fee suggested for bikes… Well we have seen how well that has been received in the past.

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  • Dillon October 16, 2009 at 11:29 am

    $19 for 20 years just to fix one bridge. Do we get to vote on this?

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  • wsbob October 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Drew #29, I feel that any person with a bike that can do 15mph over the Sellwood Bridge should definitely take the main traffic lane if they choose to. That’s really fast enough for all vehicles over the short period of time it take to cross the bridge. Also, I’m inclined to think that this slower speed on the part of otherwise faster motor vehicles would likely help to extend the life and structural integrity of the bridge.

    You other people….Complaining about Oregon vehicle registration is bad because California’s are more expensive? I don’t see a lot of reasons Oregon should want to emulate California. That state is broke even with its higher vehicle registration fees. Oregon would be wise to learn better ways to manage its infrastructure and related expenses.

    At any rate, Oregon’s vehicle registration fees are taking a considerable leap away from being, as kenny #35 whimsically describes them…”…silly cheap…”. Read, and open your pocketbook if you have to own a motor vehicle:

    Oregon vehicle registration costs rise
    /news review today.com

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  • Matt Picio October 16, 2009 at 11:56 am

    cyclist (#15) – Cool, thanks for the correction. I think it would be fair, the bridge is only 1/2 mile or less from the county line, and a huge number of Clackamas County residents use it.

    Grumbley (#14) – Motor vehicles are heavily subsidized, you’ve been shielded from the true cost the entire time you’ve owned a car. Cars and trucks committed the wear and tear, so it’s reasonable to get the money through registration fees. If you don’t want to pay it, there’s always the option to sell your vehicle. That would save you on average $6,500 a year, not just the $19 registration increase.

    wsbob (#20) – I likewise disagree with an exemption. The local residents use the bridge as much or more than everyone else does. They suffer more from increased traffic, sure – but they chose to live there. With few exceptions, the bridge was there before the residents. You choose to live next to the only river crossing for 3-5 miles in either direction, and that’s what happens, unfortunately.

    The solution is to not increase road capacity. Eventually a saturation point is reached and users find other routes, switch modes, work from home or find other options.

    Lazy Spinner (#26) – Now THAT we are in total agreement on, though Scott Bricker seems to have done as much as anyone could do to kick the supports out of that argument by citing the number of BTA members who own cars.

    Mike (#34) – If those were the facts, sure – but they’re not.

    Sellwood – structurally unsafe, almost to the point of mandatory closure
    CRC – perfectly serviceable for another few decades.
    (there’s also the issue of a couple hundred million vs. $4 billion)

    Additional traffic not ok in either, but the Sellwood Bridge doesn’t expand traffic throughput – there’s still only one lane each direction, just like now. CRC expands capacity from the current 6 lanes to 12 lanes.

    Bjorn (#36) – That’s true, but a registration-based fee does help nullify arguments against cyclists and pedestrians paying their fair share – because the majority of both are also car owners.

    Mike (#39) – Yes, a 100 pound scooter causes more wear than a bicycle. Roadway wear increases exponentially with axle weight to the 3rd or 4th power. (source)

    This means that double the weight is 8-16x the wear. This is why the average semi causes as much wear as 1,500 to 4,000 cars. A 150 pound rider on a scooter does about 3-10x as much road wear as the same rider on a bicycle. That might bring it into the realm of measurability, might not, so I don’t know where the weight limit should be set.

    The average (3,000 lb.) car creates as much road wear as about 30,000 bicycles. This is why the planners say bicycle wear is indistinguishable from weathering.

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  • cyclist October 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Mike #39: As the BTA said, 90% of cyclists also own a car, so only a tiny minority of cyclists aren’t paying for bridge reconstruction. I bike to work five days a week but will still be paying my $19 a year for bridge reconstruction.

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  • wsbob October 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Matt, I imagine a neighborhood exemption from a toll would be very controversial and likely wouldn’t be approved, but it’s something to think about to keep things in perspective.

    The idea of a traffic ‘saturation point’ is something I can’t help wonder about when I think of the daily jam-up on I-5 to Vancouver, the jam-up on Hwy 217 from Hwy 26 south through Beaverton to Tigard and beyond. The faces in the cars may change, but the volume of traffic seems to have reached its saturation point long ago, and does not ever relent. The same thing sounds to have happened in Sellwood.

    So, are the people of neighborhoods such as Sellwood or of a city like Beaverton supposed to move away if they don’t like living with the traffic? Where? To some outlying housing development or suburb, so they then can are obliged to daily drive through someone’s close-in neigborhood, thereby diminishing its quality of life?

    We in the metro area need more people to be choosing to live close-in to help bring the traffic saturation point down.

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  • Eric Miller October 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I thought that the idea of a toll on the Sellwood is dead. They’ve identified sources for the whole $330m and none involve a toll. Unless someone knows something I’m unaware of?

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  • middle of the road guy October 16, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    If you expect to have bike specific lanes, you should expect to pay something for it also.

    Sure, once it is built there may not be substantial costs…..but cyclists should certainly contribute to the investment if they expect bicycle specific infrastructure on the bridge.

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  • Afro Biker October 17, 2009 at 8:37 am

    middle of the road guy:
    Maybe cyclists would not mind paying a parking fee for some of this on street parking that’s been popping up around the city as well?

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  • cyclist October 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    middle of the road guy: 90% of cyclists interviewed by the BTA had a car, 40% of them had two cars or more. The vast majority of cyclists will be paying for the Sellwood Bridge, whether they drive over it or not. If 90% of cyclists are paying their $19 a year towards the bridge, why should they not get a bike lane?

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  • middle of the road guy October 17, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Cyclist, I think you are missing my point.

    A cyclist with a car is already paying for the infrastructure.

    My point is that someone without a car, but with a bike should also expect to contribute if they desire infrastructure specific to themselves.

    It seems to me that cyclists are always expecting a free ride on infrastructure investments.

    If something provides a benefit to you, and you want it, you should pony up. (not you, specifically). It’s always easy to state what other people’s money should go for.

    Me? Car, 4 bikes. Former transportation policy wonk.

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  • cyclist October 17, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Middle of the road guy: I fully understood your point, I just think you’re wrong. You said, “If you expect to have bike specific lanes, you should expect to pay something for it also.” I responded that 90% of cyclists also drive cars, and will be paying a $19.00 registration fee (and 40% will be paying twice or more). That to me says that cyclists are paying their fair share on this particular project.

    Your argument would make more sense if the bridge was to be paid for by an additional gas tax, as people who commute by bike to work would be paying proportionally less than people who drive over the bridge. With a flat fee per year though, cyclists pay the same amount that drivers do (with the exception of the TINY minority that don’t have a car).
    I just don’t see how you can say that cyclists are “expecting a free ride” here.

    Your assertion that cyclists are always expecting a free ride on infrastructure investments doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 90% of cyclists would NOT be getting a free ride on this particular improvement, so that clearly doesn’t apply in this case.

    You’re talking about a tiny minority of cyclists in Portland who would be getting a free ride on this, which was my original point. Cyclists *will* pay f

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  • wsbob October 18, 2009 at 1:40 am

    “My point is that someone without a car, but with a bike should also expect to contribute if they desire infrastructure specific to themselves.” middle of the road guy #49

    I might support that except that…as you might expect from my earlier comments about exempting Sellwood residents from paying a toll if there were to be one(Eric Miller #45…none is currently in the works as far as I know)…I believe the non-polluting efficiency of having people ride a bike rather than drive a car over the bridge justifies an incentive in the form of a ‘no road use fee for bike use’, to encourage use of that transportation mode over the use of a car. The benefit of doing this far outweigh its drawbacks.

    Fewer people driving cars…more people riding bikes, is a good formula. Even without the exhaust fumes, cars contribute hugely to neighborhood stress and exhaustion…big tires and high speeds create lots of noise. This is what people on foot, bike, and people obliged to live near busy roads have to deal with…and the Sellwood bridge brings many cars right down the center of that neighborhood.

    If the community should ever get to the point where the majority of road users are riding bikes, that may be the time to attach a road use fee to bike use for road access.

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  • Matt Picio October 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    wsbob (#44) – I disagree. I think we’re fine with the number of people we have close-in. We need to encourage the same density that exists in areas like Irvington, Ladd’s, Mississippi and Belmont/Hawthorne in outlying areas, like Beaverton, Hillsboro, outer NE/SE Portland, Happy Valley, and Milwaukie. Densifying Portland further will create a “larger city” feel with corresponding problems.

    Our other options are a denser central city (which ironically will produce MORE traffic and congestion) and/or sprawl.

    middle of the road guy (#46) – Did you even *read* the article? 90% of the BTA’s members also own cars – 20% own more than one. While that may not accurately represent cyclists as a whole, it’s probably not too far off. The majority of cyclists are going to be paying into this, much more than what they’ll get out of it. And motorists benefit just as much as cyclists do from having the bike lanes, because it keeps the cyclists separated from (i.e. out of the way of) motorized traffic.

    and (#49) – Cyclists pay more than their fair share, they subsidize motoring infrastructure currently – why should they pay more? When cyclist contributions are less than the cost of their infrastructure, then sure, let’s talk about adding additional taxes.

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  • wsbob October 19, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Matt…many people like the kind of density you describe. Owning and living in a neighborhood with the type of housing and population density of areas such as Ladd’s or Mississippi Av is one of the big ‘American Dream'(s). Unfortunately, with a population growth that seems to see no end, continually providing housing of that type of population density leads directly to suburban sprawl.

    If people living in outlying suburbs actually were able to, and chose to mostly stay within them to work, go to school and church, play, and do shopping, traffic problems in close-in neighborhoods might be reduced. A self-contained community offering to its residents, most of the things people need on a day to day basis, within the boundaries of the community, makes that community more walkable and less dependent on car use.

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  • Jon October 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    “E”, so why don’t bikes pay $19 tax each year to support the bridge? You seem to want the owners of cars/vans/truck to foot the bills… but you want to get a free ride when it comes to bikes paying.

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  • Anonymous October 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Do you have any idea what the costs would be to run such a program as a tax for bikes every year? The infrastructure to run this program would barely be paid back in fees. Too small a populous.
    Addtionally, I think the idea of getting people to “opt” for biking over driving should not include hurdles like “oh wait, I have not paid my yearly fee…sorry kids looks like we are driving to the park today”.
    let’s not add a barrier to something that helps everyone in the community.
    I am curious, do the people of Amsterdam pay a tax to ride their bike?
    Granted, if we had a system like theirs that makes us 1st class citizens over the cars…I would throw down $19 in a hot minute.

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  • cyclist October 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm


    90% of cyclists own a car, 40% of cyclists own two cars. 90% of cyclists will be paying $19 a year or more towards the funding of the Sellwood Bridge. That means very few of them will be getting a free ride.

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  • Anonymous October 20, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Jon has it right. Also, isnt safe measures for cyclists a means of driver’s protecting the more vulnerable (pedestrians and cyclists) from vehicles they take out on the road that can do massive harm with?
    They are paying for keeping those nto driving safe.

    To expand on the whole fee or tax dealio as well….

    Are we going to tax pedestrians/walkers as well?

    I wonder how many people that walk also drive and therefore pay the money for the safety of those vulnerable to motorized vehicles?

    Bicycling is good for the community at large at so many levels it is hard to even recall them, and it should be encouraged and remain autonomous.

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  • kenny October 21, 2009 at 9:38 am

    oops. my name did not show above.

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  • […] hard numbers on it, but we would probably find that a large % of bicyclists actually own cars [a recent survey by the BTA showed that 90% of "cyclists" own at least one car]. We pay income tax. We pay property […]

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