Port faces funding dilemma over bridge work

The Port of Hood River is facing a dilemma over when to undertake a major redecking project on its aging toll bridge.

The 78-year-old structure is requiring more repairs to its decking this year than ever before. However, the hope of capturing federal transportation dollars to help offset the $8-10 million project is fading in light of Oregon’s major bridge problems.

Dave Harlan, port director, said the public agency is now taking a hard look at its own $7 million annual budget to determine if it can pay for the work without any state or federal financial aid. He said that option may be possible because of a $1.5 million reserve built up since toll was increased from 50 cents to 75 cents in 1994. In addition, the port has also just paid off the last $1 million installment on the former Diamond Fruit cannery holdings that it purchased for $12 million in 1985. Although two of the properties have since been sold, Harlan said the port still collects more than $300,000 of annual rent from the eight businesses in the “Big 7” complex on Industrial Avenue and the Columbia Building in downtown Hood River.

“We’ve got a decision to make this summer and we’re trying to position ourselves to go either way,” said Harlan.

He said, although the bridge work was not scheduled to begin until 2004, the port is hesitating about taking on a $180,000 project this fall to replace some of the understructure if that work has to be redone within two years.

However, Harlan said the usual fall fix of broken welds on the decking has now extended into the spring months and looks to be ongoing during the summer as well.

Harlan said that is a clear indication to the port that, although there are currently no safety problems, the time has come to replace the 172 metal deck panels that were installed in the 1950s.

“The decking is continuing to deteriorate and we are going to be increasing our inspection times to ensure there are no problems that we can’t easily fix,” Harlan said.

“We think we can do this work on the port’s back if we have to and we’re now paying attention to the political funding climate out there,” he said.

Meanwhile, the port has prohibited overweight trucks from making the crossing between Oregon and Washington and plans to complete final engineering studies by this fall that will outline the scope of work for the redecking and some understructure work.

In the past three years, the port has spent almost $2.5 million on improvements or repairs to the bridge which was built in 1924.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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