Multnomah County Board re-evaluates Sellwood Bridge options after Clackamas County vote

May 18, 2011

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is disappointed that Clackamas County voters have rejected a $5 vehicle registration fee that would have raised $22 million to help replace the Sellwood Bridge.

Clackamas County voters' rejection on May 17 of the vehicle registration fee creates a hole in a regional funding solution for the 85-year-old bridge, a regional transportation asset and a vital link between residents and commuters in the two counties.

"Now that Clackamas County voters have spoken, we will roll up our sleeves to try to complete this important project without their help," said Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury. "Safety concerns dictate that we must fix the badly deteriorated bridge, the busiest two-lane bridge in Oregon. Replacing the bridge must remain our top transportation priority."

The current regional funding solution includes about $127 million from Multnomah County via an annual $19 registration fee per vehicle on Multnomah County residents. That's nearly 44 percent of the bridge's $290 million replacement cost.

The remainder of the bridge replacement costs in place include funds from the city of Portland ($80 million), state of Oregon ($30 million) and federal government ($11 million in previously secured funds). A reguest for another $20 million in federal funds is pending.

Clackamas County voters’ rejection of the $5 fee more than doubles the current funding shortfall from $20 million to $42 million.

"None of the options we now face are good ones," Kafoury said. "Our choices are to delay portions of the project, pursue funds at the state and federal levels even though both of those sources are very uncertain, or identify further cost savings without sacrificing safety improvements that are a must for all bridge users.

"We will review these options with our project partners in the days ahead," Kafoury said.