Don't know if this condition is an official psychiatric diagnosis, but lots of people in Clackamas County (Oregon) sure seem to have it: an irrational fear of trains.
Secondary related symptom: an irrational fear of highway transportation congestion caused in part by a lack of trains.
Such is the strangeness of thought disorders. This one just happens to have manifested in a majority of those voting in recent Clackamas County elections, along with a majority of county commissioners.
Watching the malady manifest from Salem, a southward rail-lacking point where we'd love to have light rail to Portland and high speed rail to anywhere, the craziness appears decidedly misplaced.
Signs of the illness showed up first in 2011 when Clackamas County voters rejected paying $5 a year in increased auto registration fees to help replace the Sellwood Bridge. The fact that 70% of trips across the bridge orginated or ended in their county didn't sway the highway transportation-fearing citizenry.
Next, in 2012 Clackamas County voters passed an initiative requiring countywide voter approval before officials can spend money to finance, design, construct or operate any rail lines in the county.
This included light rail linking the county to the Portland area's acclaimed system, high speed rail, and even improvements to freight lines. Reasons for this rail-phobia were never made clear, but mental problems rarely have reasonable causes.
From my reading of news stories on the subject, many residents seemed to fear an influx of -- gasp! -- Portlanders. Hipsters. Gangsta types. Feminists. Skateboarders. Vegans. Not sure who exactly was visualized as debarking in Clackamas County and wreaking... something or other.
They were scary though. At least in the imagination of many county voters.
Now, in 2013, the craziness continues.
The county commissioners decided to put two light rail measures on the May ballot, even though there is no need for them. One measure involves an issue that can't be voted on by the entire county and the other involves a binding contract for light rail to Portland already signed, sealed, and decided upon.
The board of commissioners also wants to ask voters what they think of tolling I-205, which runs through Clackamas County, to dissuade drivers from using the freeway in case a new I-5 bridge is built over the Columbia.
Wow. County insanity is reaching new levels.
Clackamas County is afraid of light rail, which is an alternative to automotive travel. But voters didn't want to pay for a replacement Sellwood Bridge even though most of the users of the bridge drive cars to and from the county.
County leaders also are afraid of automotive travel on I-205, yet are equally afraid of alternatives to automotive travel like light rail. So it looks like they'd like people in Clackamas County, including businesses operating there, to either stay put or travel as slowly as possible through as much congestion as possible.
Not exactly a great economic development plan. But hey, I wouldn't expect phobias to result in sensible social policies.