On the town
It should come as no surprise that the proposal to build that cockamamie $5.5 million bikes- and pedestrians-only bridge over Interstate 405 has become a featured attraction in the mayor's race.
It's one of those issues - like the city's previous attempts to cap the reservoirs or rename North Interstate Avenue - that ordinary folks seem to understand a whole lot better than the current crop of commissioners down there at City Hall.
For starters, it doesn't take an expert to see that a bike- and pedestrian-only bridge at Northwest Flanders Street is simply unnecessary.
If you want to walk or pedal across I-405 in that neighborhood, there are already two perfectly serviceable bridges a block north and a block south of Flanders.
And if neither of those meets your standards, you can always go another few blocks north to Northwest Johnson Street, which goes under the freeway. You can't get much safer than that.
In other words, as anyone except perhaps the most spirited member of the local bike lobby should be able to see, a bridge at this particular location ranks way down on the city's list of transportation priorities.
• • •
Why, you have to ask, does the city transportation Commissioner Sam Adams - who not incidentally, also is running for mayor - keep trying to push this bridge down our throats?
Especially at a time when it's generally agreed that the city's streets are in such sorry shape that a new tax might be needed to bring them up to standard.
Just a few months ago, Adams himself proposed a $464 million 'Safe, Sound and Green' street tax to pay for drastically needed maintenance and safety work.
Of course, he quickly withdrew it when it appeared likely to cause him problems in his current run for mayor, but it's the thought that counts.
'The city,' Adams said at the time, 'cannot afford to maintain its roads and bridges. Without more money, congestion will only increase and more people will die in dangerous intersections.'
Here we are, just a few months later, and he's telling us we need to spend at least $5.5 million for a completely unnecessary bike bridge in the Pearl District.
• • •
In case you missed it, this entire boondoggle is part of a major real estate development called the Burnside-Couch couplet, which just now is getting under way in the Pearl and adjacent neighborhoods.
As envisioned by the developers and city planners who came up with it, Flanders is to become a 'bike boulevard' with a bridge over the freeway. When first proposed, the bridge was to be like the one over Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, which cost about $3 million to build.
A few months ago, though, Adams and his development community friends came up with the idea of using the old Sauvie Island bridge instead.
So not only is the bridge unnecessary in the first place, it'll cost about $2 million more than the one originally proposed.
Now Adams has even got a couple of his City Hall colleagues, Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman, to sign on. Of course, it's a complete waste of money, but what do they care?
Like Adams, they obviously figure that once the bridge is in place, everyone will forget. Then they can raise your taxes to pay for all those 'Safe, Sound and Green' streets we've been hearing about.
It's certainly worked before. This time, though, I'm not so sure.