Port meets Thursday on waterfront parking, bridge funding

A busy agenda awaits the Hood River Port Commission Thursday, with waterfront parking meters and bridge funding surfacing as key talking points.

The public meeting starts at 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Port’s Marina Conference Room, 1000 E. Marina Drive.

Commissioners will give staff direction on a waterfront parking plan — the City of Hood River and Port want to team up via an intergovernmental agreement in order to install parking meters next summer on the Hood River Waterfront, sharing a new joint enforcement officer.

Action items aren’t yet on the table for the Port, but the upcoming meeting will gather commissioners’ consensus on the plan and chart out next steps.

“I do want to get their focused intention and direction,” Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said. He hopes staff will receive direction on the “how and when” of the plan.

The Port approached the City last fall about adopting a system to manage the flood of vehicles on the waterfront, but neither party has sealed the deal. City Council in January discussed the matter, but they instead set their efforts on downtown parking, lifting city rates from 75 cents to $1.

That price point may carry over to the waterfront — plans slate the hourly rate at a dollar there.

According to a two-page proposal coming before the Port Thursday, fee parking would be seasonal, and it wouldn’t kick in until summer of 2017.

From May 1 to Oct. 15, parking on the waterfront would cost $1 per hour. Alternatives to the flat rate include a day pass ($8), weekly passes ($40), or a season pass for $450. Meters would appear on Portway Avenue, First and Second streets.

The partnership with the City would kick in this fall. The Port would order materials in December, install meters and pads during March or April of 2017, and start enforcing in May.

The public will have various chances to weigh in. McElwee expects the Port will hold at least one public meeting on waterfront parking, and discussion will continue at the Port’s Waterfront Recreation Committee.

Bridge funding will come up at Thursday’s meeting in a director’s report.

The Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge moved forward in the eyes of federal recognition this week — U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday told the Port the bridge has, as multiple agencies requested, been approved as a piece of the national highway system (NHS).

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and WSDOT joined with the Port to advocate NHS status for the bridge last month; now federal officials have greenlighted that designation.

“It happened very quickly and we’re pleased that it did,” McElwee said.

The goal of NHS status was eligibility for infrastructure grant funding.

The Port is interested in a new freight and highway grant program — offering a pool of $800 million to large-scale projects — as a first step in replacing the aging Hood River Bridge. Just to enter the process, they’d need to craft an environmental impact study and preliminary engineering plans.

However, the deadline for applications in the first year of funding is April 14. The Port’s still trying to assess if staff will be able to submit an application in time.

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