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March 29, 2019

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THANK YOU, Brian for the heads up!
One little correction:
"It overrides the recent decision of the Salem City Council after years of thoughtful debate."
Thoughtful debate?
The Salem city council doesn't know their ass from a hole in ground about bridge building!
That has been the entire problem; CLUELESS decision makers!
How much more cockamamie could a bridge location have been than their RIDICULOUS proposal?
" Oh yeah, we are dumping commercial traffic into downtown Salem. HEY; lets divide it up and dump it into another Salem location!!!"
Brilliant.
The HWY 22 East / West "straight shot" solution has been on ODOT's drawing board for decades.
I fully support HB 2974 and will begin to help in any way possible to restore downtown Salem.
Make your wish list and check it twice.
We CAN meet all objectives in one smart move!
Hugs and Kisses!!
XOXOXO

The 1000 Friends of Oregon (TFO) appear rather biased.

The bill states: "(3) A petition for formation of a bridge district must include a permanent rate limit for operating taxes for the proposed district. A bridge district is a municipal corporation for purposes of ORS 294.305 to 294.565."

Yet the TFO document you cite claims, "four people elected to a Special Bridge District, plus an ODOT representative, would get to increase the taxes of everybody in Marion, Polk, Linn, and Yamhill counties -- without the people in those counties getting to vote on whether they wanted to pay for whatever new bridge those five people dreamed up. Or, whether they'd ever use the bridge." Hogwash!

A petition means voters decide whether the bridge district will be formed, how much the operating levy will be and what portion of each county, if any, portion will be included in the bridge district.

Such scare tactics is unbecoming of TFO.

E.M. I don't agree. You might be right, but I don't read the wording of that section as you do. Here's a fuller excerpt from the bill:

(2) A bridge district may be formed within the boundaries of the capital city region for
the purpose of planning, financing, constructing, operating and maintaining bridges over the Willamette River in the capital city region.
(3) A petition for formation of a bridge district must include a permanent rate limit for operating taxes for the proposed district. A bridge district is a municipal corporation for purposes of ORS 294.305 to 294.565.

So the petition refers to the formation of a bridge district. Obviously no plan for a particular bridge would exist prior to the formation of a bridge district, since the district is supposed to do the planning. Yes, it sounds like a limit on "operating taxes" for the district must be given to voters, assuming this is the meaning of "petition for formation."

But then the bill says the district has the power:

(4) To assess, levy and collect taxes on all taxable property within the boundaries of the district in order to pay:
(a) The costs of planning, financing, constructing, operating and maintaining bridges over the Willamette River in the capital city region;

So the way I read the bill, the governing body of the district can assess taxes on all taxable property to pay for planning, building, and maintaining bridges. Doesn't sound like citizens get a chance to vote on a particular bridge plan. Thus I'm standing by what I said in this post.

The third bridge could and should be constructed. Skyline is correct. ODOT has planned for and moved toward the "straight shot" alternative for decades. The goal of creating a highway that provides a speedy connection between Bend and the coast was established by the Oregon Legislature. Also, Skyline is absolutely correct when he suggests that forcing traffic through the downtown area is just plain wrong. The current route was never intended to be permanent. It was a problem that ODOT intended to remedy and it has always been their responsibility to fix. I am hard pressed to recall any case where a medium sized city allows all traffic from an intrastate highway to be directed through the core of its downtown area.

Just like other similar projects in Oregon, it is primarily the responsibility of the State to finance a project such as this (primarily by obtaining federal funding). Due to the current situation where there are other more pressing needs for highway dollars, the political powers representing this area are relatively impotent, and the reinvigorated interest in a Columbia River Crossing, a more rational and realistic effort than has been made since 2006 will be necessary.

Legal actions and/or the manifesting of public support are ways to compel ODOT to take on projects that they would rather avoid. Paul Evans's proposal, while admittedly unrefined, represents a first step in the right direction. In order to leverage action from ODOT, bridge supporters now need to put something significant on the table and funds from a taxing district, possibly alongside a relatively minor statewide or regional source such as gas taxes or vehicle registration fees. A taxing district that overcomes the challenges of establishing funding levels proportional to benefits may be the critical act necessary to demonstrate widespread support and that kind of support is exactly the type that ODOT responds to.

(A broad overview of a potential taxing district could be made by assigning relative shares to specific areas. An example would be that areas west of the bridge be divided by two north-south lines with one that includes West Salem (3 shares) and one that goes north-south near Otis. The center section, from West Salem to Otis would pay 2 shares and the included areas west of Otis would pay 1 share. Also, all Marion County property owners east of the river would also pay 1 share. The east-west taxing district boundaries should lie approximately between the two main highways to the north and south of Highway 22. This proposal is just a way to get a feel for how to approach the question of: Who pays? The actual amounts committed should be small enough for public support but great enough to provide leverage. Any proportional framework will be an improvement over the previous revenue scheme which placed the onus on all Salem residents).

Keep in mind that the purpose of the district is to exert pressure on ODOT to fulfill their legislative mandate to provide a speedy connection from Bend to the coast. It takes little imagination to see that, by directing highway traffic through what is now a perpetually congested downtown area, ODOT'Slack of action conflicts with their legislatively mandated duty. I am not an attorney but supporters should find out if ODOT's failure to make sufficient efforts to solve this problem may be legally actionable.

As stated earlier, ODOT responds to public opinion and legal threats. When support and thoughtful pressure becomes effective, they will step up and assume their proper role because all bullies are cowards and when you stand up to them with solid arguments that enjoy broad public support, they will either hunker down and do battle (usually with the oftentimes disingenuous excuse that they just cannot afford to help) or they will make real efforts to do as the elected representatives of the citizens of Oregon mandated as enumerated in the Oregon Highway Plan.

I know this to be true because I once organized a group of people who compelled ODOT to abandon plans for a major project that was poorly thought out.

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