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Multnomah County not paying for the aging Willamette River span

In response to Troutdale Councilor David Ripma's editorial and concerns raised by other East County city leaders, I would like to clear up some misunderstandings.

The first of which is that Multnomah County citizens will be funding the entire cost of the Sellwood Bridge project. This is untrue.

Multnomah County is facing a potential $600 million deficit with regards to our Willamette River bridge system over the next 20 years. The estimated cost of replacing the Sellwood Bridge alone is 300 million dollars. With the passage of the additional vehicle registration fee, Multnomah County would raise approximately 100 million dollars to for the Sellwood Bridge Project.

Once we can prove that Multnomah County residents are willing to invest in the Willamette River Bridge system, we have the leverage to ask other jurisdictions - local, state and federal - to join us in funding a piece of the regional transportation infrastructure. We own this transportation structure and must be the ones to take the first step.

I find it disheartening that Councilor Ripma is attempting to pit city against city and neighborhood against neighborhood. We all pay for services provided by Multnomah County, whether or not we directly use those services, but all those services provide a regionwide benefit.

Like most of you, I am not a big fan of more taxes and fees. Sometimes, however, it is the only way to keep our infrastructure up and running. Current state law prohibits Multnomah County from tolling the very bridges we are responsible for maintaining. I would like to see changes in state law that will allow local jurisdictions funding options for the services they must provide. I support all those in favor of creating a regional bridge authority. But those future solutions do not address our immediate need.

The proposed vehicle registration fee will cost Multnomah County drivers about $2 per month. I do not think this is too much to ask. We all will benefit from the secure transportation infrastructure this fee will help create. I look forward to working with all local governments and the federal government to find regional solutions to regional transportation needs.

The simple request from Multnomah County to our 12 overlapping jurisdictions is to allow our voters the opportunity to approve this much needed funding option.

Lonnie Roberts is the Multnomah County commissioner representing East County.