Mayor wants regional entity to handle infrastructure needs

In an effort to spur a regional entity to oversee Portland-area bridges and infrastructure, the Fairview City Council is encouraging Metro regional government to take on that role.

The council unanimously adopted a resolution, formulated by Mayor Mike Weatherby, that identifies Metro as the appropriate agency to take leadership on regional transportation infrastructure at its Wednesday, April 2, meeting.

Weatherby's concept is a response to a recently shelved Multnomah County Commission plan to fund a new Sellwood Bridge. In the controversial plan, county Chairman Ted Wheeler wanted voters to approve a new car registration fee to help fund the replacement of the decrepit Willamette River span.

When at least three of the 12 jurisdictions indicated they wouldn't support a fall ballot measure, Wheeler and Commissioner Lonnie Roberts withdrew the proposal. One of its provisions involved pursuing a regional authority to oversee Willamette River spans in the Portland area, many of which are maintained and funded through financially strained county coffers.

Weatherby, whose City Council supported the Sellwood plan, wants to keep that concept at the forefront of public discourse.

'I felt we there needed to be some real leadership to get this bridge authority moving,' he said. 'There was talking, but nothing was getting done. Everyone seems to agree there needs to be a real bridge authority.'

Weatherby said Metro, an organization that oversees aspects such as parks, waste management and urban growth issues in greater Portland, is the logical entity to bridge gaps in area infrastructure funding. He summarized the resolution in a letter to county commissioners, Portland-area city council members and Metro Council members.

'Although there was disagreement about Chair Wheeler's solution, one area of agreement during the debate was that these bridges were critical pieces of regional infrastructure and that the entire region should be part of developing solutions,' he wrote. 'Our council has taken the next step by identifying Metro as the proper regional agency to take a leadership role in addressing this regional problem.'

Weatherby hadn't received an official response from Metro, but said he felt some Metro councilors, such as Rod Park, were receptive to the idea.

Fairview Council President Larry Cooper said he isn't sure what it will lead to, but supports the mayor in his efforts.

'How far it goes beyond that it's hard to say,' he said of the resolution and letter. 'If everybody feels it's a regional issue, then Metro is the right place to put it.'

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