Rules are coming into focus for how the Port of Hood River will handle certain proposals for replacing the aging Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge.
The Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2017 which gave the port authority to enter public-private partnerships — an option that the port has researched for creation and management of a new bridge.
But the legislation also said the port has to adopt a set of administrative rules governing how the district considers those “P3” proposals.
The Hood River Port Commission will hold hearings March 20 and May 1, gathering public input on the “P3” rules. Acting as a Local Contract Review Board (LCRB) via an Oregon statute, the board intends to adopt the ruleset in mid-May.
Since 1950, the port has owned the Columbia River toll bridge. Equipment failure and maintenance costs sparked discussions for years about replacing the bi-state link.
In November, the port received an unsolicited proposal from a Colorado-based private firm, United Bridge Partners, to build and manage a new bridge. However, port officials did not read the proposal, citing the state legislature’s requirement that the port first develop and adopt rules for how to consider that type of project.
The port contracted Steve Siegel to draft the “P3” rules. In early 2018, the commission reviewed the 40-page document and reached consensus not to accept unsolicited bridge replacement pitches.
Kevin Greenwood is the port’s bridge replacement manager, a position created around the start of the year.
He explained that the elected port commission felt “any reasonable iteration of the rules” would include a piece stating that competing proposals would need to be solicited, evaluated and negotiated upon accepting an unsolicited proposal.
The cost of that work would need to occur on the port’s timeline, he said.
He said that taking on unsolicited proposals can be helpful for larger agencies like the Oregon Department of Transportation, but the port has just one project — and a relatively small budget for analysis.
“The commission concluded that, since acceptance of an unsolicited proposal would trigger a solicitation, it made more sense to forgo those proposals and instead invite competing proposals at a point in the project timeline where the port is best positioned to provide maximum public benefit in any deal,” Greenwood said.
Aside from the “P3” rules, another major step toward bridge replacement will be a final environmental impact study (EIS).
During a meeting with bridge consultants in January, experts recommended the port carry out the study no matter what path they take toward replacing the bridge, whether with private or public dollars.
A port EIS request for proposal (RFP), which will cast the net out for interested firms and establish a bidding process, is under legal review.
“I anticipate having a final draft for commission review at their March 20 meeting and it hitting the street in the days after,” Greenwood said.
HOW TO COMMENT
Written comments about the port’s emerging rules for bridge-related private-public partnerships should be submitted via regular mail or email to:
Port of Hood River
Attn: Kevin Greenwood
1000 E. Port Marina Drive
Hood River, OR 97031
Email: kgreenwood @portofhoodriver.com
Volunteers have been identified to serve on a five-member evaluation committee that will review proposals sometime in early May, with the consultant team being under contract by July 1.
The port will also convene a Bi-State Policy Advisory Committee sometime in the next two months to begin sharing information with and getting feedback from local governments. The goal: involving communities in Oregon and Washington.
“It’s important that both sides of the river feel they’re part of the process and that will be a priority for us moving forward,” Greenwood said.
The first hearing takes place Tuesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. in the port conference room, 1000 E. Port Marina Drive. Written comments should be submitted by Thursday, March 15 at 3 p.m. If the commission makes any changes to the draft rules after the first hearing, a second review draft will be published to the port’s website by April 13.
The second meeting happens May 1, at the same time and location. The deadline time for written comments in the meeting packet will be 3 p.m. April 26. If there are changes, the final review draft will be published to the Port website by Friday, May 11.
An early draft of the rules is available at www.portof hoodriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/PPP-Rule.Public-Review-Draft.2-21-18.pdf
The port expects it will convene as the Local Contract Review Board to adopt the final version May 15.
The port has set up a bridge replacement blog, which houses announcements on policy decisions, agency partnerships, project milestones, and related documents. It can be found at portofhoodriver.com/new-bridge-replacement-project-blog.