A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

One small symbol of decay

Written March 20th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Handy for leaning a bike, concrete barriers still close half of the Cox Creek bridge.

Handy for leaning a bike, concrete barriers still close half of the Cox Creek bridge.

For 11 years now, this bridge on Albany’s Cox Creek has been restricted to one lane, with concrete barriers and piles of gravel closing half of it. It looks like a permanent symbol of our crumbling infrastructure, which in itself may be a sign that our civilization is slowly falling apart.

After an inspection showed problems with the bridge supports, Linn County made emergency repairs by reinforcing some pilings in early 2005. Since then the county relinquished ownership to Millersburg. The Millersburg council has discussed the bridge but taken no action, City Administrator Barbara Castillo reports.

Trucks going to and from the Millersburg yard of the Portland & Western Railroad use this access. And while the bridge is just inside the Millersburg city limits, it is an Albany issue because it serves as the gateway to Albany’s increasingly popular Talking Water Gardens and Simpson Park. While the original 2005 weight limit of 16 tons evidently has been raised to 40 tons, the barricades make it plain that the structure still needs fixing.

But the chances of reconstruction are slim to none. Albany lists $257 million in needed street maintenance and construction work, but none of it is funded in its current five-year capital improvement plan. The money just isn’t there.

The city’s plan acknowledges that the need for street work gets bigger as long the work isn’t done, and the longer it is deferred, the more expensive the solution will eventually be. The idea of a street “utility” tax has been considered but put off in the interest of not swamping residents with utility fees beyond their ability to pay.

In the big picture, this little Cox Creek crossing, out of the way for most people, is not on anybody’s radar. So it will just sit there, an ugly reminder that as a society we have lost the means and the will to take care of things as basic as bridges and streets. (hh)

16 responses to “One small symbol of decay”

  1. Shawn Dawson says:

    It would take a lot more taxes related to automobiles and driving to put our infrastructure in great shape.

    The populace is, and has been for decades now, against any such tax increases. They are seen as a burden. One complains about ‘inefficiency’ of the government, and uses that as an excuse to oppose tax increases necessary for infrastructure. One also mis-trusts how the government spends money in general (again going back decades) and believes the taxes would be wasted during the process. We need look no further than recent posts in this blog related to proposed street improvements downtown for examples here.

    I agree, it’s a sign of decay.


  2. Corie Benton says:

    Sad but true commentary of our times.

  3. David Ballard says:

    According to a study, (see summary here: http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/figures/2014/Costs%20of%20War%20Summary%20Crawford%20June%202014.pdf), the war costs of our involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, including legacy costs, is about 4.4 trillion dollars through 2014. Assuming these numbers to be accurate, (I can neither verify nor disprove these numbers), we can speculate as to how much money may have been available to our state had the government chosen a different response to the catastrophic events of 9/11 in New York.

    (To be sure, it is a moot point because the decisions made and path chosen cannot be changed. History cannot be revisited from the present. Retrospect suggests to some that our foreign policy response to the 9/11 events to have been an abject failure. Hindsight has a way of sharpening one’s vision.)

    One can easily imagine a more measured, yet forceful, response to 9/11 which may have cost only, say, $400 billion versus the $4.4 trillion calculated in the scholarly paper mentioned above. Had this been the case and if the difference, (i.e., 4 trillion dollars), were divided up by the number of household per state and if this sum were earmarked for infrastructure investments, the State of Oregon would have at it’s disposal about 1.25 percent of that amount. (Number of households in the US as of 2014; 123,230,000. Number of households in Oregon that same year; 1,540,000).

    We can probably all agree that $50,000,000,000 would go a long way in addressing some of Oregon’s crumbling infrastructure concerns expressed in your article. (Not to mention the 3.95 trillion which the rest of the country would have available to invest in similar fashion).

    But, alas, the borrowed money has already been spent.

    • David Ballard says:

      “We can probably all agree that $50,000,000,000 would go a long way in addressing some of Oregon’s crumbling infrastructure concerns expressed in your article.”

      Upon further reflection, perhaps I should have written instead, “We can probably all agree that $50,000,000,000 would go a LITTLE way in addressing some of Oregon’s crumbling infrastructure concerns expressed in your article.”

      If $50 billion is an accurate number as mentioned in the above post and that number is divided by the total population of Oregon, i.e. 318,857,056, and then multiplied by the population of the City of Albany, i.e. 51,583, then the Albany portion of those funds would be only about $8,088,734; not nearly as big a number as I would have guessed, and definitely nowhere near the number of $257 million mentioned in your piece.

      Perhaps enough to repair the bridge in the photo and maybe one or two in similar condition? Not really the “long way” suggested earlier.

      • David Ballard says:

        Oops. Scratch that last comment, due to faulty math. The $50 billion was divided by the US population instead of the Oregon population leading to a faulty conclusion.

        The correct calculation would put Albany’s share at over $650 million, more than twice the $257 million the city needs for the “street maintenance and construction work” mentioned in the article. My apology for the error.

  4. centrist says:

    Going to poke the bear a little :
    Infrastructure isn’t sexy and hasn’t had the profits of other ventures. War, and threat of war, is easy to sell and highly profitable to a relatively few.
    Wonder if some of the conservative readers have considered the cost-benefit analysis for defense projects???

  5. Rhea Graham says:

    How long until the Cannabis tax is tapped? The first month of taxed sales brought in 3.48 million on recreational Cannabis. I am thinking Albany just might want to re-think what an “insignificant number that would be”. http://www.oregonlive.com/marijuana/index.ssf/2016/03/first_month_of_taxed_recreatio.html

  6. Bob Woods says:

    When Reagan said that “the government is the problem” he started the big lie that provided a convenient “them” to be used as excuse for all that ails the country.

    Of course we are the government. So the problem is really in ourselves and it has been a collective decision to not fund public needs.

    In regards to roads and other major works it has rarely been about “government inefficiency”. All major infrastructure projects are done by the private sector through the bidding process. It costs only what the market says it costs to do the work. So the “problem” is not “the government” it’s about the real costs involved and the money needed to pay for it.

    Maybe folks ought to think about all these decision they’ve made over the last 35 years or so about who they voted to put into office. About which ones have steadily worked to improve infrastructure and were willing to take the abuse for raising taxes or fees to pay for it. And also the ones who always seem to have an automatic “No!” to all proposals.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      There is so much money wasted by requiring contractors to use UNION LABOR,
      That is inefficiency!
      The government is the problem! They use our tax money to keep themselves in office and continue pandering to the unions for their vote.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Bill, WE, meaning you me and everyone else, are the government. We elect the people who make the laws.

        The current laws which have been in effect since 1959 require the prevailing wage to be paid, precisely to prevent contractors from hiring a bunch of illegal workers and paying them a pittance of what it takes to be over the poverty levels.

        It’s not “the government” that is the problem, it is what we all decided. You lost back in 1959. Let it go and move on.

        • Bill Kapaun says:

          How could we possibly have illegal workers in this state?
          What a CROCK!
          This state seems to encourage them and even give them Voter Registration kits when they sign up for PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.
          This state has a NO ASK, NO TELL policy when it comes to illegals.

  7. ean says:

    Make the railroad replace the bridge.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Railroads have special exemptions carried over from the mid-1800’s that preempt most state and local control. It is exceedingly difficult to make them do anything, and even when you can is takes decades to get there.

      That’s just the way thing are and it takes an Act of Congress to change. Good luck if you want to try that. So far no one has had much success because it’s not an issue that people tend to care about much.


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