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Blumenauer blames hostility to earmarks for Sellwood Bridge funding woes

by: David F. Ashton U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, shown during his recent visit to Southeast Portland.

When United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer visited several Southeast Portland sites on October 10th, he praised progress made to reduce Johnson Creek flooding, and also met with representatives from various small businesses in the area.

At one meeting, Blumenauer talked with THE BEE about the effort to rebuild the Sellwood Bridge.

'This is been a priority of mine since I was a Multnomah County Commissioner from 1979 through 1986. It was then when I found out in how bad a shape the Sellwood Bridge is. Then, as City of Portland's Public Works Commissioner, the concern about the integrity of the bridge really grew.'

When we asked about what success he has had in helping obtain federal funding to rebuild the bridge, Blumenauer responded, 'As you know, we've been able to steer some federal money to help the project so far. I think this is a good investment. I'm very impressed with what the County and City have done, putting together the vast majority of the money.

'One thing that's a little troubling is the 'new crew' in charge in Washington, DC,' Blumenauer continued. 'They don't want to have 'earmarks', and earmarks are a way we could steer money to the project. But, we are working on the [Federal Transportation funding] reauthorization; and we're looking at every grant opportunity.

'The good news is that it is now 90% funded. I am convinced that we will work together and find a way to do it.'

About Clackamas County voters defeating a measure that would have added funding for the project, Blumenauer commented, 'It is troubling and unfortunate that there isn't broader participation. People from Clackamas County use the bridge a lot - big time.'

Blumenauer concluded, 'But, I'm impressed that people at Multnomah County, and their citizen advisory panel, are doing a good job. One way or another, we will get it fixed.'