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Sources Say: Millions for bridge, but city piggy bank empty for streets

The timing of TriMet’s ceremony marking the joining of both sides of the Tilikum Crossing bridge over the Willamette River was a little awkward.

Elected officials from throughout the region walked across the bridge shortly before noon on Friday to mark the milestone in the $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project. The ceremony ended about the same time that Commissioner Steve Novick began telling the City Club that Portland needs a new source of transportation funding because it does not have enough money to maintain or add safety features to its streets.

TriMet’s MAX project is funded from a variety of different sources, of course, including the federal government, which is paying 50 percent of the project’s costs. But Portland also has put millions of transportation dollars into it, although much of the money, like System Development Charges, can’t legally be spent on maintenance.

Cover Oregon at top of dubious list

Cover Oregon is the most expensive health exchange failure in the country, according to a June 4 Wall Street Journal story.

The story looked at five states with the most costly problem-plagued websites. It found Oregon’s cost the most to build, $255 million compared with $141 million for Minnesota, the next most expensive state. The story also pointed out that Oregon will spend $41 million to switch to the website operated by the federal government. Although Massachusetts will pay more to switch, $121 million, its total cost still will be less than Oregon — $257.9 million compared with $296 million.

Such stories help explain why Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson is making Cover Oregon the major — in fact, practically only — issue in his uphill general election campaign against Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“Cover Oregon is John Kitzhaber’s signature achievement, which should tell you a lot about what he’s accomplished during his tenure. He made promise after promise when he sold it to us, and now he’s making excuse after excuse for the promises he broke, which is pretty much all of them. And it’s the reason his office is now being investigated by the FBI,” Richardson said in a June 4 campaign email, referring to reports of the investigation into how federal money was spent on the website.

Bridge talks hit a dead end

The Washington state legislators who recently hosted a discussion relaunching the process to build a new bridge over the Columbia River are deluding themselves if they think they accomplished anything.

Republican Washington state Rep. Liz Pike of Camas was one of the lawmakers who convened last week’s closed-door meeting of what she called the Bi-State Bridge Coalition. It was attended by eight Washington and four Oregon legislators. Afterward, Pike was quoted as saying she thought it was the start of rebuilding the relationship between the two states after the bitter collapse of the Columbia River Crossing.

Oregon legislators were quoted as saying they didn’t hear anything to convince them to attend a second meeting, however. The Washington Legislature refused to fund its share of the CRC, and Pike and the Olympia lawmakers didn’t offer an alternative proposal — or even a realistic process for coming up with one — that a majority of both state legislatures would be likely to support.