There is no time to waste defining the precise cost of providing public infrastructure to the extensive and rapidly advancing high-rise office, research and residential development occurring in Portland's South Waterfront.

The cost of providing local street, transit and freeway access to the area approaches $170 million. But the actual number is anybody's guess. It is believed that development fees could pay for about one-third of the costs, with local improvement district funding and an infusion of state and federal funding adding to the pot.

Such limited detail doesn't match the ongoing intensity of development already occurring in the South Waterfront.

This is no way to plan for the important future that the South Waterfront offers the city and the region. Even worse, it's no way to shape the future of the entire metropolitan area's transportation system at a time when local, state and federal funding sources are so limited that planners say the region has only 40 percent of the funding that it requires for the next 20 years.

For example, things are so bad that with existing funding it may take until 2089 to pay for proposed improvements to congested Oregon Highway 217 in Washington County.

We support the development of the South Waterfront, but not in an inconclusive vacuum. We suspect that many citizens will agree. We do understand that the city of Portland, the Portland Development Commission, TriMet, Oregon Health and Science University, the Oregon Department of Transportation and private-property developers already are working hard to put shape to this issue. They need to work harder and much faster.

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