Sunday, August 21, 2011

City Council, August 22nd - Minto Bridge Poised to Move Forward

In perhaps the most exciting item for City Council Monday night, the City and Willamette Queen sternwheel riverboat appear to have reached a "loss-of-use" agreement!

The matter will actually come before the Urban Renewal Agency, in their meeting just before Council - but the members are of the board are also City Councilors, you will recall.

The issue is that the difference between a high bridge and low bridge is around $5 million, and because of Federal 19th century river navigation law, a commercial boat operator can insist on being able to pass under a bridge - and forcing the high bridge with its $5 million increase.

The essential terms of the agreement are:
1. The Owners will be compensated up to $250,000, payable in five consecutive annual installments of $50,000.

2. The Owners agree to support and not contest the permit process for the low span bridge option across the Slough.

3. Compensation will commence in the calendar year in which the Slough is blocked by bridge construction.

4. The Willamette Queen Sternwheeler must be in continuous operation for the twelve months prior to each payment date to receive payment.

5. The Owners agree not to sell the sternwheeler or the business prior to the Agency's receipt of all applicable permits unless the new owner agrees to be bound by the terms of the Agreement.

6. The Owners may assign the Agreement to another party with written consent from the Agency.

7. The Agreement is valid for a period of 10 years.
$250,000 is about 5% of the difference between the high and low bridges, and on the surface this looks like a fair deal given the legacy regulatory environment that is patently weighted in favor of boat operators. The Captain gets his bounty, and the City will no longer be held hostage. With this 5% overage - tiny for a transportation project - the City can move forward with bridge planning.

Other Matters for Council Proper

There will be a hearing for the bank drive-throughs in the downtown historic district. For more discussion, see here. The issue hasn't gained any traction, and indeed while it is unfortunate, it's also difficult to think that with mobile banking on the rise, drive-throughs for cars will continue to be necessary. The market may phase them out on its own. The corner also needs to be developed, and maybe this truly is the only way to do it.

The City also would like to continue to work on the South of Mission Sustainable Cities project! This is exciting to see. For more on the project see here. The map is a concept green boulevard between Bush Park and River Road - and dovetails nicely with the Bike and Walk Salem recommendations.

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