Of PDX, Pedaling and Transportation Infrastructure

By March 9, 2011Infrastructure

The National Bike Summit is under way in D.C., a downpour is expected this evening, Fred Armisen is producing a satirical TV show, “Portlandia,” the Blazers beat the Heat, and our thoughts thus turn to the old home town of Portland, Oregon.

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), recently took his committee to Vancouver, Wash., just across the Columbia River from Portland, for a “listening session” on infrastructure policy and budgeting. He was in search of priority setting for legislation, but instead got pleading for local projects, especially the Columbia River Crossing. The Bike Portland blog had a good report on his meeting, “Mica presses for specifics at House Transportation Committee field hearing.” Business representatives did get to comment along with state and local transportation officials:

Rep. Shuster spoke of his work in the Northeast part of the country. “We faced bats, snails, fish, trees, you name it, we faced it… Everyone is concerned about the environment, but we’ve got to find the right balance.”

Joe Correy, a rep from Associated General Contractors said, “We need less regulations.” Cappel from Clark County Public Works said EPA regulations are, “One of the biggest challenges” he faces. Several panelists spoke to how environmental mitigation requirements result in skyrocketing project costs.

Reporter/Editor/Publisher Jonathan Maus closes his post commeting on  a noteworthy absence: “Oh, and in case you’re wondering, bicycling wasn’t mentioned at all. Not once.”

Well, that certainly won’t be the case today when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) addresses the National Bike Summit. We don’t know how many articles we’ve read about Rep. Blumenauer’s bicycle advocacy; they repeat themselves. On policy issues, we detect a tendency toward reductio ad absurdum and free-wheeling slagging of industry.

In an NRP story about the House leadership abandoning expensive biodegradable plates and cups because they fell apart, Blumenauer commented: “You wonder what’s next… Lead paint? Asbestos? I mean, there’s lots of things that are less expensive as long as you don’t care about health and other considerations.” That’s ridiculous.

Rep. Blumenauer makes an appearance in a new American Spectator article about Portland, more specifically how the city’s love affair with light rail is unsustainable from a ridership, tax and budget standpoint. The transit authority, Tri-Met, faces a $27 million deficit, Ethan Epstein reports in “Portland Going Nowhere“:

You know the adage, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”? TriMet has revised it to: “When you’re in a hole, build more light rail.” Despite its financial distress, TriMet now plans to build another MAX line, its most expensive yet. Construction is slated to begin this summer on a segment connecting Portland and Milwaukie, a sleepy town of 20,000. The price tag: $1.5 billion. As the line would stretch only 7.3 miles, the cost per mile would be a little more than $200 million. The federal government has agreed to foot half the bill, and TriMet plans to fund most of the rest by floating $724 million in bonds.

Milwaukie’s not THAT sleepy, we assure you, and a light rail line serving the would be really, really cool. Maybe there’d be a stop at Reed College! Thanks, federal taxpayers!

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