Vehicle registration fees hiked for seismic upgrade cash

Multnomah County

None of the downtown bridges can withstand a major earthquake

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Vehicle registration fees will nearly triple in Multnomah County in 2021 after commissioners voted on plans to pay for seismic upgrades of the Burnside Bridge.

Multnomah County commissioners cast 2 major votes Thursday. First, they confirmed the 3 bridge rebuild options and criteria for a study. Second, they decided how to raise local money for these.

Commissioners voted to increase yearly vehicle registration fees in Multnomah County from $19 to $56 beginning in 2021. But the fee increase requires 2 votes and they will vote again next month.

The county is also seeking regional, state and federal funds for the project, which will be its largest capital project to date. The estimated cost is between $550 million and $850 million dollars.

On top of that, construction could last between 4 and 6 years. That means the completion of the Burnside Bridge seismic upgrade is about 9 years away.

Experts say currently, none of the downtown Portland bridges are strong enough to withstand a large earthquake. It would take weeks before any of the bridges would be usable after an event like the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

“This lifeline to be able to move both emergency services and people to where we provided services,” said Chris Voss, Director of Multnomah County Emergency Management “[It] would certainly be critical for us and all emergency services organizations.”

Both new bridge options would be about 106-feet wide and about the same height as the current bridge, though one would split on the east side to connect to NE Couch Street.

More about the efforts to make the Burnside Bridge earthquake ready

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