Yesterday’s election results

The results from the May 17 2011 election are in, and here’s how transport and land use issues fared.

The results from yesterday’s election are in, and here’s how transport and land use issues fared.

  • Clackamas County voters rejected the $5 license fee surcharge to replace the Sellwood Bridge, 63-37. Opponents of the levy hailed this as a victory of suburban values over urban ones (“in Clackamas County, we drive cars”)–even though the primary users of the new bridge (as well as the current one) would be automobiles. Multnomah County officials stated that they would look at other options, including deleting the big interchange with OR43 on the west end–a design feature which has been roundly criticized, but on which quite a bit of state funding is conditioned.
  • Voters in the city of Damascus rejected their comprehensive plan.
  • In Washington County, voters in the North Bethany area north of Beaverton approved a permanent tax levy to help fund the area’s transportation needs.

Thoughts and comments? In particular, what ought to be next for the Sellwood Bridge replacement?

33 Comments

33 Responses to Yesterday’s election results

  1. R A Fontes
    May 18, 2011 at 10:42 am Link

    I voted for the Sellwood $5 but keep having this nagging thought about what Highway 43 would be like if the roughly 30,000 vehicles that daily use the bridge were forced to cross elsewhere. Line 35 between the Lake Oswego TC and Pioneer Courthouse, which now averages 27 minutes with no trip scheduled at more than 33 minutes, would easily average less than 25 minutes and peak trips would be well under 30. All of that is in contrast to the 45 minutes that the same trip will take via the streetcar extension regardless of Highway 43 traffic.

    Just a thought.

  2. EngineerScotty
    May 18, 2011 at 10:48 am Link

    Are you implying any impact on the LO Streetcar, RA? :)

  3. Evan
    May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am Link

    I try very hard to be reasonable about infrastructure projects: even if I don’t use it, it adds value to the network, so it’s fine for me to chip in.

    But there’s no way in hell I’m going to pay $19 a year for 20 years for each of my cars when I don’t even drive across the Sellwood bridge, while Clackamas County drivers can’t pay $5 this year and $5 next year? And the majority of trips across the Sellwood begin and end in Clackamas County?

    This was approved by the county commissioners! AFP and the [Moderator: Offensive term for Tea Party supporters removed — ES] blew it up! People signed the petitions and voted for this. Close the damn bridge. Give me and other Multnomah County residents our money back.

  4. Clay Fouts
    May 18, 2011 at 11:14 am Link

    It’s too bad we’ll have to turn the Sellwood Bridge into a ped/bike only facility since that’s the only class of vehicle that it can safely carry at this point. That additional 25 minutes of commute time each way to cross the RIB is going to bum folks out. Maybe if the proposal had been for a $4/year fee the voters wouldn’t have felt so upbraided.

  5. EngineerScotty
    May 18, 2011 at 11:27 am Link

    Actually, the majority of trips begin OR end in Clackamas county; a majority of trips also begin OR end in Multnomah County, and a not-insignificant fraction begin or end in Washington County.

    To put it another way: A substantial number of trips across the Sellwood are between a destination in Clackamas County, and one in Multnomah County. A common assumption is that this is Clackamas County residents commuting to jobs in Portland (and then back again), but I’m not sure if the data exists to support that assumption.

    But that poses an interesting question. The proposed fee would be a licence fee on motorists–thus, payment is extracted at the point of one’s residence. TriMet, OTOH, is funded by a payroll tax–payment is extracted at the point of one’s employment. It’s interesting to consider how these differing funding schemes affect the dynamics of how service is provided.

  6. DNF
    May 18, 2011 at 11:52 am Link

    I think we should just apply a toll only to Clackamas County residents on the Sellwood Bridge. It would be pretty easy to do with a camera that reads the license plate and either mailed you a bill (if your car is registered in Clackamas) or automatically raises the toll gate (if your car is registered in Multnomah County).

  7. jon
    May 18, 2011 at 12:15 pm Link

    I sure hope tearing down the bridge and not replacing it is one of the main options considered.

    Those to the north of the bridge have plenty of options to cross the river so the bridge is worthless to them.

  8. EngineerScotty
    May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm Link

    Personally, I consider tearing it down to be a bad idea–the bridge is structurally obsolete as an automobile crossing, but would make a fine crossing for pedestrians and bikes. Tied in with the Springwater Corridor and the Trolley Trail, it would become an excellent part of our active transportation network.

    My favorite snarky idea is to build a heavy rail crossing at (or near) the Sellwood Bridge (it would no doubt need to be a drawbridge), to tie the Willamette Shoreline tracks to the Samtrack line, and then convert the existing Lake Oswego rail bridge to transit use. This would have several benefits:

    * Allow provision of quality rapid transit to Lake Oswego–a MLR extension would provide LO residents with better service than the proposed streetcar.
    * Provide a key piece of infrastructure for a future Clackamas/Beaverton transit line.
    * Thoroughly annoy the good residents of Dunthorpe, by resuming regular freight service through their front yards. :)

    What’s not to like?

  9. Erik H.
    May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm Link

    My favorite snarky idea is to build a heavy rail crossing at (or near) the Sellwood Bridge (it would no doubt need to be a drawbridge), to tie the Willamette Shoreline tracks to the Samtrack line, and then convert the existing Lake Oswego rail bridge to transit use.

    That’s an absolutely asinine waste of taxpayer dollars, is what it is.

    Pay off a corporate landholder (Union Pacific) to buy an old, rickity 100 year old bridge. (Remember, Union Pacific was able to take advantage of our wonderful planning and insisted on $24 million to buy out the five miles of track from Beaverton to Tigard – track that UP doesn’t even use!)

    Rebuild said 100 year old bridge.

    Use taxpayer dollars to rehab an old, obsolete railroad track (the Jefferson Street Branch).

    Build a new bridge for what, one or two freight trains a day?

    Use eminent domain to buy out a large number of very expensive houses just to tear them down (with the resulting loss of property tax revenues).

    And extend light rail (which will require replacing at least three or four other bridges, including the Kellogg Lake trestle) at $75-100 million a mile.

    Unfortunately we live in the real world and money IS an object. Who is going to pay for all of these dreams?

    Bus riders? They seem to have been treated as the bank before…

  10. jon
    May 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm Link

    I say tear it down to show the consequences. The lack of a bridge here is not going to hurt those in Portland or Multnomah County. How about Multnomah County residents gather petitions to repeal their $19?

    Why is Portland putting in $80 million, we already have 9 other Willamette River road crossings within the city (plus a rail bridge plus the future transit bridge)? Theres a lot in Portland that we could use that transportation money for like pedestrian safety, bike infrastructure (gasp) and transit.

    Could anyone explain to me this resentful view that by voting this down is stickin’ it to Portland urban values (namely bikes, peds and transit)?

  11. jon
    May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link

    “Unfortunately we live in the real world and money IS an object. Who is going to pay for all of these dreams?

    Bus riders? They seem to have been treated as the bank before…”

    ——————————————————————————–

    Or we could build a subway from Tigard to Portland and have the idea publicized in the Oregonian? Apparently under that special scenerio money isn’t an object, and rail is better than buses.

  12. Bob R.
    May 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm Link

    And extend light rail (which will require replacing at least three or four other bridges, including the Kellogg Lake trestle) at $75-100 million a mile.

    Why would the Kellogg Lake trestle need rebuilding? TriMet is already building a separate structure to cross Kellogg Lake with light rail on the way to the terminus at Park Ave.

    Setting aside other issues with the proposal to extend service to Lake Oswego from Milwaukie (and Scotty is not the first to suggest this), it would seem a relatively uncomplicated manner to tie in with Milwaukie Light Rail on the west side of 99E and Kellogg Lake, not the east side.

    Bus riders? They seem to have been treated as the bank before…

    Explain? Numbers, documents would be helpful. As most public transit service (of all modes) is subsidized, it’s difficult to see how rail projects use bus riders as “the bank”.

    Sigh. I guess it doesn’t take long around here for a thread about the Sellwood Bridge to transform into bus vs. rail arguments.

  13. EngineerScotty
    May 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm Link

    Erik,

    There’s a reason why I called it a “snarky” idea–it won’t fly, obviously, for the reasons you cite and more. (That said, I’m not sure why eminent domain would be required to buy out any homes along the route–the existing easements permits rail traffic, and the upgrades needed to support higher-speed passenger traffic aren’t necessary for freight–simply designate the line as FRA-exempt and be done with it).

    Were we to do a transit crossing in the LO/Milwaukie vicinity; I’d much rather have a new bridge that can handle busses (and bikes) as well as rail; the existing bridge fails on many levels.

  14. EngineerScotty
    May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm Link

    Could anyone explain to me this resentful view that by voting this down is stickin’ it to Portland urban values (namely bikes, peds and transit)?

    Were I to hazard a guess, it’s a feeling that the bridge is mainly about alternative transportation. After all, the new bridge doesn’t add any additional auto capacity over the current one (assuming one ignores the theory that the extra-wide sidewalks are “stealth” auto lanes); however it does add significantly more space for human powered transit, can support the weight of busses (the current bridge is closed to heavy vehicles, including busses), and is also designed with a future streetcar line in mind.

    Similar thoughts, I suspect, drive much of the opposition to the CRC from north of the Columbia–many Vancouverites propose reducing the bridge’s price tag by deleting all of the transit-related design elements, and just building a bridge for general-purpose traffic. And given that there’s going to be a MAX-related levy on the Vancouver ballot next November, residents of the ‘Couv may get to express their distaste with MAX in a similar fashion.

    In other words, the voters of Clarkamas :) county are playing chicken with the city of Portland.

    The trouble with both positions is this: the city of Portland is not about to fold up its tent (in either case) and say “you win–we’ll build a bridge for cars, and forget about all this transit nonsense”. That is unlikely to happen. In the case of the CRC, which many powerful interests want badly, we’ll likely get the current design–expensive, but with the transit design elements included. In the case of the Sellwood, OTOH, we may simply see nothing getting built, and the current bridge closed to vehicular traffic when it is no longer safe for cars–or a “green bridge” built in its place.

  15. Bob R.
    May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm Link

    An aside:

    Offensive term for Tea Party supporters removed

    While I agree completely with the removal of the term from the comment on this blog (and would never dare to question a fellow moderator! :-) ), I would like to point out that it was originally the contemporary Tea Party folks who instigated the use of the term to describe their activities, apparently not realizing its pejorative implications. See here and here if you are so inclined.

  16. Bob R.
    May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm Link

    Back to the bridge, one popular suggestion (at least reflexively) is to toll the bridge.

    However, since the politics of this seem to center around views about bikes and peds, and also to heavier vehicles which cannot use the current bridge, it is important to address the issue of fairness.

    One way to do this is to use a weight-based toll. Suppose a typical 4000lb automobile would toll at $1, or about 0.00025 dollars per pound. A 20,000lb truck might therefore pay $5. A 180lb person on a 20lb bicycle (200lbs total) would pay a nickel.

    For ease of tolling people and vehicles that don’t have transponders for weigh-in-motion, vehicles could be grouped into classes (cars, light trucks, heavy trucks) and pay a fixed amount, say rounded to the nearest 25 cents. In which case, purely for the sake of easily understandable administrative convenience and to reduce bureaucracy, peds and bikes would pay zero.

  17. Carter
    May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm Link

    I had no idea t——-r was a naughty word. The things you learn from a transportation blog. Its use in one scene of an obscure 13-year-old movie makes it verboten in polite company.

    Well, at least now I know what to call tea partiers when they annoy me (which is often).

    I say shut the bridge to cars and bring back the Sellwood ferry. The bridge would be fine place for a summer evening stroll or bike ride.

  18. Jim Lee
    May 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm Link

    As I have remarked several times, if Multnomah County had the brains and guts to stand up to ODOT’s demand for that $135 million interchange, financing a much needed replacement for the Sellwood Bridge would be easy.

    As for all those in the who-in-which-county-pays-for what debate, the only reasonable solution is to put the regional assets that our local bridges comprise into a regional pot. That means either Metro or TriMet.

    I closely followed MultCo’s and TriMet’s bridge projects: the difference between night and day! TriMet is the only local regional agency with expertise and authority to build, operate, maintain major infrastructure projects.

    Give TriMet the legal authority and fiscal resources over our local bridges.

  19. Douglas K.
    May 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm Link

    What next? Well:

    It’s too bad we’ll have to turn the Sellwood Bridge into a ped/bike only facility since that’s the only class of vehicle that it can safely carry at this point.

    Sure. Why not?

    Another option: Put a $1 toll on the bridge. Collect it electronically. Exempt any vehicle registered in Multnomah County, since those vehicles are already paying $19 a year into the bridge through increased registration.

    Another option: scale down the bridge to save money. 10 or 11 foot traffic lanes flanked with 8-10 foot sidewalks for bike/pedestrian traffic.

    And yeah — get rid of the ridiculous west-side interchange.

    Really, this shouldn’t be a problem.

  20. jon
    May 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm Link

    i agree, if they want to save money, get rid of that huge interchange on the westside. once you let the traffic engineers call all the shots they make a simple project into a huge expensive mess. godforbid you have a 3 way stop at a normal traffic light there. no, no we must have overpasses, underpasses, ramps, flyovers, turning lanes to the left, turning lanes to the right, intersection bypasses, etc.

    also close the existing bridge, tear down it down and rebuild a new one in the exact same place. no condemnation of adjacent property. this building a new one next to the old one is just a waste of money for just 2-3 years of construction when there are many alternate crossings that can handle the load. already the lack of this crossing for buses and trucks is no big deal.

  21. Craig
    May 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm Link

    Great point Jon. Trying to keep traffic moving during the construction adds huge costs. Just closing down the bridge without and alternative might actually save what clackamas just bailed on. They can live with the two year detour. Seems fair.

  22. Bob R.
    May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm Link

    An interesting election item not related to transportation: As of “Update #7” on the Multnomah County Elections results page:

    26-123 PARKROSE SCHOOL DISTRICT
    Yes . . . . 2,487 49.99
    No . . . . 2,488 50.01

    That election is just one vote shy of a tie, and two votes shy of a majority. Tomorrow’s update may alter that, but it should be a wake-up call to anyone of any political stripe who doubts the importance of their own vote.

  23. Bella
    May 18, 2011 at 9:48 pm Link

    Maybe we should just let the Sellwood bridge fall down. As they said, people in Clackamas County drive cars so I’m sure they wouldn’t mind taking the 20 minute detour over the Ross Island Bridge twice a day on their commutes.

    I mean really, how many people from Multnomah have any reason what so ever to go to Clackamas compared to how many in Clackamas rely on the Sellwood Bridge for their livelihood?

    Common people…pay your share.

  24. Chris I
    May 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm Link

    Jon wins for best idea. That would yield the $22 million and then some.

  25. Aaron Hall
    May 20, 2011 at 3:01 am Link

    Actually, eliminating the grandiose Hwy 43 interchange cuts more than half the project cost. Rebuilding all of that costs more than the actual bridge itself, just like with the freeway reconstruction for the CRC project. It’s traffic engineers running amok. The current 43 interchange functions quite well. Why does it have to be reconfigured and completely rebuilt?

    Split the project up into 2 phases. Phase 1 is the bridge only, reasonably priced and ultra-high priority (construction starts ASAP). Phase 2 is the westside interchange, overpriced and superfluous. Phase 2 will never get built.

  26. Lenny Anderson
    May 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm Link

    Actually origin & destination studies show that the location that really needs a bridge over the Willamette is between the Oak Grove area south of Milwaukie and Lake Oswego. Metro should re-open their old bridge location study based on the Clackamas county vote, and Multnomah county should convert the Sellwood into a bike/ped facility.

  27. nuovorecord
    May 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm Link

    I really like the current highway 43 interchange because it exhibits people (drivers) behaving at their best. To go eastbound on the bridge, drivers from the north and south approaches take turns to enter the bridge, creating the so-called “zipper effect.” It’s slow, but continuously moving. And it’s fast enough for a 30 mph zone.

    But if Clackamas Co. residents don’t see the value in helping pay for the bridge, I say close it to autos. As a Multnomah Co. resident, I’m perfectly happy with a portion of my $19 going to install a signalized crossing at the west end, which has the dual effect of allowing me to safely cross Hwy. 43 on my bike, as well as serving as a daily reminder of how short-sighted the motorists of Clackamas Co. were.

  28. al m
    May 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm Link

    The Sellwood Bridge question is SIMPLE to solve.
    Sell it to a corporation and let them “privatize” it, fix it up and then charge tolls for whatever the market will bear.

    Everything else is ending up privatized, why not the bridge too?

  29. EngineerScotty
    May 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm Link

    Remember, Al–they looked at a similar scheme with the Pinot-Casino Highway, and discovered that it wasn’t financially worthwhile to do this.

  30. Ron Swaren
    May 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm Link

    Lenny Anderson Says:
    Actually origin & destination studies show that the location that really needs a bridge over the Willamette is between the Oak Grove area south of Milwaukie and Lake Oswego.

    IMO, this is a no-brainer, too. It’s about the shortest jump across the Willamette at this point. On the west side it is smack dab in the middle of five connecting routes (counting hwy 43, both north and south) and also connects to a network of thoroughfares on the east side.

    But back to the Sellwood bridge. The Sellwood Bridge sure has plenty of structural metal in it. There is one lane per truss—compared with three lanes per truss in either the Morrison or the Burnside Br, and two lanes per truss on the Ross Island. It also has a lot of concrete weight on it that could be replaced with lighter metal components (i.e the concrete railings and two continuous concrete beams underneath it). If several hundred tons of net weight were eliminated could the roadbed be revamped to allow buses? Could a bike and walkway be hung off the side, as was done with the Steel Bridge?

    I have never seen what the big fuss on this thing is. It is not nearly as old as the Hawthorne Bridge which I am sure will not be torn down any time soon. So far, it has survived very well in the minor earthquakes we have had in the Portland area(as have all of our other structures) and could probably be refitted with modern seismic bearings. I think the ground movement issue on the west end is not nearly the cataatrophe waiting to happen as some fear. After all we now have geotechnical standards to cope with such things.

  31. al m
    May 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm Link

    Put the bridge on EBAY Scot!
    Somebody will buy it!

  32. Steve
    May 21, 2011 at 10:19 am Link

    “In the case of the Sellwood, OTOH, we may simply see nothing getting built, and the current bridge closed to vehicular traffic when it is no longer safe for cars–or a “green bridge” built in its place.”

    Despite the yes campaign rhetoric the project has been moving forward unabated by the fee vote or lack of complete funding.
    A final desingn contract was just awarded and construction remains scheduled to begin as planned in 2012 for complettion in 2016.

    The remaining funding shortages are not much different than MLR funding yet to be secured.
    Both projects are moving forward.
    The current price tag for the bridge is $290 million.

    It’s elevated by the inclusion of a new 18 ft ped/bike sidewalk Wilammette Park, culvert replacement in area streams and the excessive width for ped bike traffic. The two 12 foot mixed use ped/bike sidewalks planned are beyond sufficient to accomodate all future ped/bike traffic and then some.
    There simply is no reasonal or realistic scenario an additional 13 feet is needed.

    I also read the design adds a traffic signal at the West end and a pedestrian actuated signal at 6th on the east end. Is this still the case?

    Multiple sources of funding are available that involve Clackamas County tax revenue.

    JPACT could easily fund a share of the cost by either re-allocating their recent choices and/or inculding the Sellwood bridge in the next round.

    Isn’t it a at least somewhat peculiar that JPACT has never had this most urgent transportation project on any list for funding?
    Yet Milwaukie Light Rail has been allocated $204 million.

    It speaks to the lack of urgency and regional interests when it matters most.

    Same goes for other allocations.

  33. EngineerScotty
    May 21, 2011 at 11:00 am Link

    Me: In the case of the Sellwood, OTOH, we may simply see nothing getting built, and the current bridge closed to vehicular traffic when it is no longer safe for cars–or a “green bridge” built in its place

    Steve: Despite the yes campaign rhetoric the project has been moving forward unabated by the fee vote or lack of complete funding. A final desingn contract was just awarded and construction remains scheduled to begin as planned in 2012 for complettion in 2016. The remaining funding shortages are not much different than MLR funding yet to be secured. Both projects are moving forward. The current price tag for the bridge is $290 million.

    Were you thinking that all work on the Sellwood Bridge project would grind to a halt when the funding scheme was referred to a ballot, pending the outcome? As you note, this probably isn’t a lethal blow for the project–it will be de-scoped and continue. Contracts for the design can be awarded with funding contingencies.

    Steve: It’s elevated by the inclusion of a new 18 ft ped/bike sidewalk Wilammette Park, culvert replacement in area streams and the excessive width for ped bike traffic. The two 12 foot mixed use ped/bike sidewalks planned are beyond sufficient to accomodate all future ped/bike traffic and then some. There simply is no reasonal or realistic scenario an additional 13 feet is needed.

    Many of the environmental mitigation elements of the project are required. Quite a few of us on the the pro-transit, pro-bike side of the ledger are uncomfortable with the extra-wide bike/ped facilities–simply because it looks like something that could be converted to additional auto lanes in the future. And you forgot to mention the ridiculous interchange at the west end. OR43 is not a freeway; there’s a three-phase traffic light immediately north of the bridge at Taylor’s Ferry; and more to the south in Dunthorpe.

    Steve: JPACT could easily fund a share of the cost by either re-allocating their recent choices and/or inculding the Sellwood bridge in the next round. Isn’t it a at least somewhat peculiar that JPACT has never had this most urgent transportation project on any list for funding?
    Yet Milwaukie Light Rail has been allocated $204 million.

    JPACT could also easily fund this by shifting money away from other highway projects. Obviously, you disagree with JPACT’s funding priorities–but it should be obvious that JPACT is not going to divert funds from MLR to build the Sellwood, no matter how much you might wish that to occur.

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