CL Port to hold town hall meeting on toll increases

Repairs to restore the Bridge of the Gods’ 40-ton weight limit were completed last month and big trucks and buses are now back on the bridge, shuttling people and supplies up and down the Columbia River Gorge.

With the bridge running at full capacity once again, the Port of Cascade Locks can now refocus its attention on raising funds for the long-term care, maintenance, and eventual replacement of the 88-year-old bridge it owns — which will likely mean raising tolls.

The Cascade Locks Port Commission will be holding a town hall meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Marine Park Pavilion in Cascade Locks to seek public input on a proposed toll hike for certain vehicles that use the 1,858-foot bridge in the heart of the Gorge.

The proposed increases are primarily targeted at heavier vehicles that produce more wear and tear on the bridge and would not affect the toll currently charged to the drivers of passenger cars and pickups, which is $1. Under the proposal, tolls assessed to motor homes, trucks, buses and commercial trailers would double from $1 per axle to $2 per axle. Dual-wheeled pickups, formerly charged a flat fee of $2 to cross the bridge, would see tolls rise to $2 per axle. Motorcycle tolls would also get bumped up from 50 cents to $1 and non-commercial trailer tolls would rise from 50 cents per axle to $1 per axle. Tolls for pedestrians and bicycles, which are currently 50 cents, would remain the same.

The port commission has also proposed increasing tolls 25 cents per axle on trucks and buses once every two years starting Jan. 1, 2016. There is also a suggestion that “local residents” be allowed to receive a 25-percent discount, although the parameters of “local” have yet to be defined.

The port says it needs the boost in revenue to “ensure sufficient funding” for its Bridge Preservation, Repair and Replacement Fund and notes that the “increases are in recognition of the cost of repairs, operation and administration” of the bridge. According to News archives, the Bridge of the Gods has not seen a toll increase since Jan. 1, 2003.

The port received $1.4 million from the State Transportation Improvement Plan back in August 2013 to repair the bridge after the Oregon Department of Transportation identified dozens of corroding bridge features that either needed to be repaired or replaced before the structure could be restored to its original weight restrictions. As part of an addendum agreement with ODOT — which administered the repair job — the port has to develop a 10-year maintenance and operations program for bridge upkeep that includes proposed projects ranging from bridge repainting to lighting improvements to toll booth automation. Money for these projects would come from the port’s bridge preservation fund, with estimated annual expenditures of $200,000 to $300,000.

If approved, the toll increases are proposed to go into effect by April 1, 2014. Those with questions can contact the port at 541-374-8619.

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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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