PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Home to some of Oregon’s best spots for wineries, hiking, fishing and breweries, the city of Hood River is slated for major projects from the White Salmon Bridge replacement to working towards affordable housing.
Newly-elected Mayor Paul Blackburn says the bridge is a “100-year-old facility, and of course the whole gorge really is one community – White Salmon, Bingen, Hood River, The Dalles – we all work together, and we all live in different places and work in different places. The teetering-ness of that bridge is a grave concern.”
The mayor told KOIN 6 News consultants on the project anticipate costs including $520 million — adding a bi-state group of Washington and Oregon counties and mayors are working together to secure funding.
“The only way to fix a bridge like that, as we all know from Metro, is with outside funding. So, we’re working closely together locally to get support with states on both sides – State of Washington and State of Oregon – and then finally some federal money. And the last bit will finance, pay for tolls.”
Blackburn is uncertain of when construction will begin but says the bridge could be complete by 2029. He’s also uncertain of what the toll rate will be in order to pay for the bond but emphasized the need for safety improvements.
“It’s a big project and it’s very scary. Every time I drive across it, I say, ‘Oh, let me not be the mayor when something happens,’” Blackburn said.
In addition to the bridge replacement, the mayor says Hood River is working towards affordable housing.
Blackburn says one report claimed the average home price in Hood River was around $750,000, which he pointed out is “affordable to few.”
“It’s a real problem for us, it’s an economic problem for is, it’s a humanitarian problem for us, it’s a convenience problem for us,” Blackburn said.
He added that the city helps fund the Mid-Columbia Community Action Council for projects such as homeless shelters, restricting short-term rentals for housing inventory and adjusting middle-housing zoning.
When it comes to affordable housing, Blackburn said, “there’s no magic bullet, but I do think there is some magic buckshot and piece by piece we can have some impact on making community livable.”