Sadly, planning for an unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for Willamette River third bridge continues on in Salem.
This half billion dollar boondoggle is like a zombie that's half alive, half dead, and keeps on staggering along to no particular purpose other than enriching the consultants working on the unnecessary project.
A No 3rd Bridge Facebook link tells the wasteful tale: at least $62,088 has been spent every month for almost nine years on bridge planning. The CH2M Hill consulting firm must love that fact; taxpayers should hate it. So far about $7 million has been wasted in total.
On this coming Wednesday, December 3, the Oregon Department of Transportation is going to hold a second funding workshop where citizens can share their favorite ways to have $500 million taken out of their pockets for a Bridge That Hopefully Is Going Nowhere.
At the first funding workshop, some unpleasant funding options were laid out: (1) tolls on the existing bridges, (2) a local vehicle registration surcharge, (3) a local gas tax, (4) a property tax increase.
If the bridge somehow came to be, almost all of the $500 million cost would come from local sources. Federal and state funding likely would be nearly non-existent.
So let's ponder the absurdity of what Salem's Mayor, Anna Peterson, and the City Council are trying to foist upon Salemians. Can you think of better ways to spend a half billion dollars on improving Salem than on a third bridge given that no one -- repeat, no one -- has provided a good reason for why it should be built?
I sure can. I wrote a Strange Up Salem column in Salem Weekly on this subject. I'm sure other Salem area residents can also.
The plain facts are these.
Traffic counts on the existing bridges have been flat for years. The current bridges can be retrofitted to be earthquake safe for $36 million. Also adding a lane to each, plus improving the approaches to enhance traffic flow, would cost hugely less than $500 million.
Further, improving the existing bridges would save dozens of homes and businesses slated for demolition if the planned third bridge is built on a much wider stretch of the Willamette north of the current bridges.
Thus I'm planning to attend the Wednesday "Funding Workshop" to give transportation officials a simple message: I don't want to consider any funding options, because I don't want a third bridge to be built at all; we need to improve and repair the current bridges, thereby saving local citizens hundreds of millions of dollars.
The more people who share a similar message, the better. This is an issue that should unite those of every political persuasion who oppose wasteful government spending. Here's when and where to show up:
6:30 pm, Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Dye House -- Willamette Heritage Center (a.k.a. Mission Mill)