Margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise for Sellwood Bridge


In this time of shrinking pocketbooks and widespread suspicions about government intentions, we understand why voters might not want to add any new items to their personal costs of living.

Adding to a vehicle registration fee in Clackamas County to help fund a new Sellwood Bridge in Multnomah County is one of these financial issues that seemed to strike a negative chord with many voters Tuesday.

Still, because of the relatively small cost ($5 a year), we confess we were a bit surprised by the margin of defeat: 63 percent of those Clackamas County voters voting came out against the fee. Voter turnout in Tuesday's special election was 40 percent.

What this means is that one of the most dangerous bridges in Oregon, which is urgently in need of replacement, will need other revenue sources to help fund the project. Clackamas County's vehicle registration fee penciled out as $22 million for a new bridge. Currently, the overall estimate for the bridge project is $290 million.

Now it's back to the drawing board for Multnomah County in figuring out its money options.

When you think about the ways to cross the Willamette River to get to the east side of the metro area, there are very few options south of Portland: Two, in fact. The Sellwood Bridge and the Interstate 205 Bridge in the West Linn-Oregon City corridor. If the Sellwood goes away - and remember it's a very dangerous bridge - the commute to the eastside will become a lot more complicated.

We understand the theory behind saying, 'It's not in our county so we aren't going to pay for it.' We also understand that traffic counts suggest that about 70 percent of trips over the bridge either start, end, or start and end in Clackamas County.

We hope that the decision by voters doesn't lead to costly or even tragic consequences down the line. The bridge has outlived its usefulness. It needs to be replaced. We pray that a new bridge can go up before the current one claims a very high price.