Civic comment: Toll hike helps sustain valued link

September 20, 2011

What is the useful life of the Hood River Bridge?

This question was posed by the Port of Hood River and, by way of an engineering study, the port received a qualified answer. How much are you willing to spend? As with anything from your automobile to your home, how long it lasts depends on how well it is maintained.

The port is committed to maintaining the bridge to extend its life into the future for at least 30 years. We maintain this link to Washington at the highest level possible given the reality of an 87-year-old structure.

With our bridge survey in hand and predicting an average level of deterioration we have peered ahead and estimated the monetary needs required to keep the bridge fully useable into the 30-year horizon line. This horizon line remains 30 years ahead as long as we have no replacement scheduled. This replacement is a $250 million proposition.

In a recent article in Car and Driver magazine, 600 bridge projects were identified and most will likely be higher priorities than the Hood River Bridge. Given the current budgetary realities, future replacement is uncertain, although the port maintains dialogue and continues planning for the eventual replacement.

As the bridge ages, the demands it places on our resources increases; most notably the redecking project recently completed cost $8.1 million, and the upcoming painting project which will only paint specific members of the bridge and will hardly be noticeable by the average user. This project's first phase, which began in August, will cost $2.8 million.

It is important for the port to maintain solvency as we provide support for the vital link that the bridge represents. As the bridge ages these maintenance tasks will increase the amount of maintenance necessary to keep the bridge safe and operating at full capacity.

The only way for the port to accomplish these bridge repairs and be prepared to continue maintaining the bridge to the highest standards is to implement a toll increase.

It is important to note that maintaining the bridge at the highest level is borne by the port; we receive no state gas taxes to operate the structure. Our last increase was in 1994 and helped to fund more than $16 million in bridge infrastructure improvements.

As the port looks at ways to accomplish these maintenance tasks, we are keenly aware of the impact that the toll increase will have on the citizens of the Mid-Columbia region.

Since 1992 the average inflation rate has been 2.47 percent, which would make the passenger vehicle toll $1.06 if we had implemented increases at the rate of inflation during that time. This increase of 25 cents per crossing for cash users is an annual increase of 2 percent if spread out over the last 17 years. The increased monthly cost for BreezeBy users who make 25 roundtrips on the bridge per month would be $6.

No one likes to see fees increase and the port is careful to only ask for those increases when our financial demands require more money than we have available. For the last 17 years we have managed our assets within our budget; it is now necessary for the port to raise the toll in order to provide funding for the upcoming high priority bridge repairs.

Rich McBride serves on the Port of Hood River Board of Commissioners.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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