Citizens should be extremely wary of Mayor Sam Adams' recent notion that the city of Portland should take over the five Willamette River bridges owned by Multnomah County.
We agree with Adams that the city is more focused on transportation than the county. Adams also is correct in saying that the bridges are an essential part of Portland's economic development plans.
But if Adams believes the city should become responsible for the bridges, he should first call for an independent evaluation of the bridges' condition and their financial requirements during the next 25 to 40 years. Only then should the city begin talks with the county about the possibility of transferring the bridges along with the state transportation funds typically received by the county.
Truth be told, those state funds won't be nearly enough to cover the estimated $621 million in expenditures needed during the next 20 years to maintain or replace the bridges. By itself, replacement of the aging, cracking Sellwood Bridge would cost a minimum of $280 million.
Without a full technical and financial evaluation, we fear that Adams' idea might place the city at risk. Portland is already woefully underfunded in its ability to maintain existing roads. Taking on responsibility for the bridges could further compromise these needs and other city services.