Land Use and Transportation Update for Spring 2011

A rumor is circulating that the owner of the old Roth auto lot on the northwest corner of MLK and Tillamook has leased to a sex superstore operator who is planning a 24-hour operation at the site.  Historically, such uses that are allowed by zoning (this is) and that don’t require any building exceptions (this may not), are impossible to stop.  Nevertheless, neighbors in Eliot and Irvington are exploring options to stop the lease.

The PDC is moving forward with development on the NE Gateway on the triangle of land due south of Albina Corner (where the Albina Bank is located).  The permit for the project has been filed.  Although the gateway was planned with community input, suggestions to add pedestrian improvements were consistently rejected by City transportation staff.  The final plan actually erects a barrier to prevent pedestrians from crossing from the east to the west (or vice versa).  Eliot may object to the omission once again.

At long last, a derelict building at 215 NE Tillamook is being restored, or at least remodeled.  A permit was issued in March for a “single story addition” to the existing house, which is in process.  While welcome, it appears the redevelopment is being undertaken by a little known firm.  In similar situations in the past, such firms have not shown a great deal of respect for either permit requirements or neighborhood character.

The NE Coalition of Neighborhoods, of which Eliot is a member, held a community forum on the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) Bridge project.  The CRC is proposed to replace the existing Interstate Bridge to significantly increase the number of lanes for Vancouver commuters coming into Portland.  It is designed to reduce congestion in Vancouver caused when Vancouver freeways lanes funnel onto the three lanes of the exiting bridges.  It will also increase capacity onto Hayden Island in anticipation of development of the currently wild west end of the island by the Port of Portland.

The forum provided updated information about the status and cost of the CRC and a review of the state of the Interstate Bridge.  One of the two Interstate Bridges was recently upgraded and has at least 50 years of useful life left.  The other requires a similar upgrade.  The cost of that upgrade is less than Oregon has spend to-date on planning and PR for the CRC, much of which has been wasted on a plan the engineering community considers “unbuildable.”  Updated project costs put total cost to taxpayers at over $10 Billion.  This will be the largest construction project in the history of either Oregon or Washington.  Recently, Oregon’s governor admitted the bridge is being promoted for the jobs it will create.  Unfortunately, the size of the project means it will be managed by an out-of-state construction firm, so the best jobs and all of the profits from the project will go outside Oregon and Washington.  While the project will create construction jobs, they will be temporary and speeding Vancouver commuters won’t lead to any new permanent jobs or development in Oregon.  The huge cost of the project will dry up funding for future transportation projects in Oregon that would create as many jobs; projects that could be managed by local firms to keep high-paying management jobs and profits in Oregon.

The NE Coalition of Neighborhoods and most of its member neighborhoods are opposed to the CRC.  After spending approximately $30 Million on PR for the project, roughly 30% of survey respondents are opposed to it.  That despite the fact there has been no organized opposition so far; when all of the consequences of the project are fully known opposition increases.  Unfortunately, the governors of both states and many local politicians and Congressmen are trying to rush the project to avoid substantive public discussion.  This is reckless, naïve, and unwise.  Haste has already made waste for this project.  Over $100 Million of Oregon taxes wasted on the wrong design.  Shortcuts have been made in the environmental review that most likely will delay the project.  The project depends on a substantial amount of federal funds.  It is naïve to believe these will be available in the current budget process.  Local Congressmen have been assured they won’t if there isn’t universal agreement for the project.  Rather then pursue a pie-in-the-sky project in the hope it will produce temporary construction jobs, the Governor would be better advised to focus on the long list of Oregon transportation projects that are needed and take more time reviewing where Oregon should invest in transportation projects that will produce new development and permanent jobs.  Finally, it is unwise for local politicians to try to short circuit public discussion of Oregon transportation needs as well as this project.  Regardless, you should expect to hear more from project opponents. ●