Whose expensive scheme is next?

On the Town

Now let's see. Is there anything else we can tear up while we're at it?

A year later, they still haven't finished paving Front Avenue.

The new and improved transit mall - meaning Fifth and Sixth avenues downtown - has been in the throes of construction since last summer. They say it'll be up and running again in the fall of 2009.

And then, of course, there are all the street and lane closings around Southwest Park Avenue for the huge underground parking lot that's going in there.

Not to mention the Burnside Bridge, which has been under some sort of construction since time began - although some days you drive by and no one seems to be doing anything at all.

Plus, of course, the gigantic South Waterfront condo project.

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Why, it seems like only yesterday that it was being sold to the public as the hub of a vibrant new biotech industry, which could be counted on to produce 10,000 new jobs here in P-town.

But guess what? The biotech firms never materialized.

I'm sure their intentions were good, as were those of the developers and politicians who used the promise of all these biotech jobs to push the project through.

Just life in the fast lane, I guess.

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But now that the towers are up, it's time for the city to cough up for all the roads and bridges - 'portals,' as they apparently are called by the planner types - for getting in and out of the place.

According to recent reports, the taxpayers are on the hook for at least another $100 million in 'portal' expenses for South Waterfront.

That includes $40 million to $60 million for an intersection at Bancroft and Macadam - the South Portal - which in 1999, when the project was being sold to the public, was estimated to cost $436,000.

If overruns like that occurred anywhere else, the natives probably would be getting out their pitchforks about now.

And then there's the pedestrian-bike bridge, originally billed at $1.6 million. The current estimate is at $11 million and rising.

Throw in another $40 million for that promised greenway along the river. After all, what would Portland be without greenways?

Plus who knows how many millions for a new North Portal. The streets leading into South Waterfront from that direction already are jammed. Apparently, no one even bothered to budget for that.

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And now, wouldn't you know it, the same folks want to get us into the hotel business.

They say an $80 million convention center hotel is needed because the convention center - also built at public expense - is a bust, and they're hoping against hope that a big shiny hotel will bring in more conventioneers.

In other words, what they're trying to do is throw good money after bad. Only problem is, it's not their money.

And when they've finished with that, they want to tear up Burnside and Couch and turn them into a 'couplet' - which is apparently designer-speak for two one-way streets.

If it makes them feel better, I suppose, they can call them anything they want.

But isn't it time we all stood back and took a break before rushing on to the next grand plan?

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..