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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 14, 2011 9:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was Liars' budget on Lake O. Foothills boondoggle: $61 million. The next post in this blog is 106 years of history vs. developer money. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The miracle of life

Yesterday we posted a link to this article in the Oregonian, about the news that the future Barbur Boulevard MAX line is now supposed to have a tunnel linking it to OHSU. Our breath was taken away by the sheer stupidity of it, but our friend Bill McDonald read carefully and thoughtfully. And he left a comment that is so perceptive that it deserves a post of its own. Indeed, it deserves a whole blog of its own. And so here it is:

Behold. This is the definitive "birth of a project" Oregonian article of all time. If Portland lasts 1,000 years, you will not see it done any better. This is like looking back at the primordial ooze of bureaucracy and witnessing the beginnings of life. The article doesn't just report on something -- it actually serves as an incubator, or a petri dish, while the new life form begins to grow.

In the beginning there is an idea -- and I think, right away, we can rule out intelligent design. A few paragraphs in and the idea has turned into a speck of dust. That's quite a description, isn't it? This signifies creation. A speck of dust is a huge leap from just an idea. It's come into existence. Remember, man, that thou art dust. It's biblical.

Next the selling begins as we slide into the happy talk: "A mosaic of planning efforts." That's beautiful. The planners created it and it was good. But there can be no light without darkness -- there can be no good without evil -- so we get a little uneasy feeling with the phrase, "determining first where the population growth and employment centers should be." Aren't we supposed to decide that?

Something has happened to the dust particle by now. It has floated in the swamp and is now coated with a rich layer of fertilizer. As it begins to get bigger, bureaucratic phrases like "long-term vision" and "cost-effective" start oozing out. My favorite? "The plan will dovetail." I like doves, don't you? They represent peace. The selling continues in earnest with a reminder of how great the zoo tunnel turned out to be.

Then the miracle of life happens. This idea that hadn't even turned into a speck of dust on a desk at the beginning of the article is now here. It has officially crawled out of the swamp and is now roaming the city. The Metro guy says, "It's in the mix." Congratulations, and welcome to Portland.

Naturally we have 18 months of studying before the final decision of what to do with it. That's standard -- it'll give our new life form time to grow strong and healthy, while the consultants nourish themselves on its nutrients.

More happy talk: 2 or 3 alternatives will be looked at, but the option of doing nothing -- that existed just a few paragraphs up -- is already gone: "The timeline calls for federal funding and construction between 2017 and 2023." That doesn't sound like more buses -- also mentioned as one of the options. Hmm, what's that leave? Light rail and the new creation? Tunnel vision anyone? We have a new life form and we already have a timeline for graduation day.

But what is it? What do you call it?

First, we get one last, little hint about what is coming with a comment about how intriguing the tunnel is and then it happens: "a working group has been formed to oversee the planning, and a community advisory committee will be formed soon to keep an eye on the project."

The project? It's not just in the mix anymore. It's not a speck of dust. It is not just an idea. We have just witnessed the birth of a project. Within this article you have seen the routine and somewhat dubious miracle of planners giving life. Now watch as the budget goes forth and multiplies.

Comments (35)

Brilliant. And frightening.


The press used to serve as a check on government abuse of power.

They are now the 'fourth estate' due to their absolute corruption in being a propaganda organ for the State.

The irony of this is this story that appeared early this morning but is of course not visible on the oregonlive website front page now.

"...a community advisory committee will be formed soon to keep an eye on the project"

Ha ha ha.

Great post by Bill. This raises the question as to which light rail boondoggle-in-the-works is the dumbest idea. I'd say that this and the LO train make Milwaukie light rail seem downright practical.

Roger put his finger on what may be going on here; dumb ideas make less-dumb ideas look practical.

We better keep our eye out for the mother of all dumb ideas that will make all these piddling local projects look downright inviting.

My vote is the birth of a tram-from- Portland-to-the-top-of-Mt. Hood project. Initial cost estimates will hover around 100 billion dollars, and quickly explode to the trillion dollar mark before one planner treks to the top of the mountain, looks down on Portland, and submits his expense report to the new tram billing office.

"Go by streetcar" will then be replaced by "go by tram-to-the-top-of-Mt. Hood."

Oh, I forgot to mention, the "tram-from-Portland-to-the-top-of-Mt. Hood will be topped off by an OHSU medical facility to house its massive biotech operation that somehow didn't materialize on the South waterfront.

Is OHSU the center of the universe?

Every time I read a post like this, I am so thankful I no longer live in Oregon. A financial house of cards put together by a bunch of power-hungry idiots.

The Missing Transport Link: The Columbia River "Interstate Aqua Tunnel"

Bill certainly has it down.

We have just witnessed the birth of a project.

Continual birthing of projects here... think a community that portrays itself as sustainable would put a stop to this madness with some “birth control.”

By the time the retreads are done with redo, but then that is the point isn't it, they are never done. . . anyway if we are lucky there may be some remnants of our recognizable and good city fabric left, but I doubt it. . . addiction reigns here.
Bill's post on addiction was a good one too!

"Is OHSU the center of the universe?"
No just "The citys largest employer"(registered trademark).

I love sarcasm and stupidity as a method of argument. Amazing. Quoting out of context also is sweet. Thanks for the lesson in sudo-intellectualism. Too bad that discourse has come to this.

I can't imagine a better form or more effective form of discourse inthese times. Lord knows showing up in majority numbers to express opposition to such a plans never works. Protesting goes now where. My friend, the fix is in.

So I will not use sarcasm, but rather a paraprosdokian and say........Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Nmayer, when accusing someone of being stupid, you may want to spell "pseudo" correctly.

Wow. I don't wish this tunnel on myself or anyone else, but I sure do wish I could write like Bill. Exceptionally well done.

Thanks for the lesson in sudo-intellectualism.

That's "pseudo", big guy. "sudo" is a Unix command. Careful--that kind of spelling might get you labeled "pseudo-intellectual".

More simply, though, I think you missed the larger message of the piece. Bill's essay was beautifully done.

There are times when sarcasm is needed to point out stupidity.
Did you mean pseudo-intellectualism, or is "sudo-" a result of much texting?

Go! Bill, Go!

Buried in the comments is the one by genop - "The Missing Transport Link: The Columbia River "Interstate Aqua Tunnel" " - oh, please, don't give those CRC folks any more ideas. 4 Billion will look cheap in comparison.

To continue Bill's analogy, where's Planned Parenthood when you need it?

Tunnel?! That's it! Let's combine California's high speed rail and Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel into a high speed rail tunnel from Seattle to San Diego! And the only stop would be at OHSU where an underground funicular railway would take you up to the tram.

Brilliant barely covers it.
Thanks Bill.

I suggest that Bog's Blog consider an annual award for best comment and name it after Bill McDonald. The group of awardees through time could be called The Billy Club, or sumthin'. Bill can pick up this year's award at his convenience.

Thanks again, Bill & Bog!

Okay, I have two words to describe the stupendously dumb idea that will make everything else Portland suggests seem paragons of rationality. Those two words are "space elevator". The idea is perfectly reasonable, but I could see Sam Adams hyping it up in order to handle the commuting needs of hipsters from other planets. "Go by streetcar" is just so Twentieth Century: if you're really going to make a mess comparable to feeding a St. Bernard Ex-Lax and tying a live cobra to its tail, "go by orbital launch platform" is the way to travel.

The amusing thing about this proposal is that the City had its chance to push for it, and incidentally to pay for a major part of the tunnel cost, if it had connected OHSU to South Williams (sorry, South Waterfront) by a tunnel instead of the $65 million tram. MAX could then have run to a station beneath OHSU, as now belatedly proposed, and been extended later on to points west. Instead we will end up with two, not one, expensive connections to OHSU, and very possibly make the tram redundant.

The end of the world has arrived in Portland: A Metro director told area transportation officials Thursday that the outlook for federal roads and transit funding is “grim.”

Cotugno offered his prognosis during the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation meeting at Metro’s Portland council chambers. The group immediately formed a subcommittee to examine ways the Portland area could address drastic funding shortfalls.

The reauthorization bill is the primary funding mechanism for new transportation projects. Federal funds have supported such projects as the $1.4 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail line, on which construction will begin this year.

Local transit officials believe the final version will, along with offering less money for roads and public transit projects, forego new funding for bicycle and pedestrian pathways.

While they'll doubtless be searching for innovative ways to divert money from roads, it'll be interesting to see what other innovations they can come up with. Tri-Met has been cutting bus routes to pay for light rail, but even that hasn't been enough - so they've cut back on cleaning.

Even as public health experts fret about the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, money-strapped TriMet has made deep cuts to cleaning crews charged with scrubbing down its vehicles.

Money-strapped? But the light rail lines are such a raging success!

Preliminary results show that oxacillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus could be among the 120 bacteria colonies found on trains and buses. Commonly known as MRSA, the bug is notorious for rejecting antibiotics, eating flesh and causing pneumonia.

If you're going to ride, stand. And don't touch anything.

I guess nobody has bothered to tell any governmental unit in Portland Orygon that there is actually a fiscal crisis going on.

They just keep pumping out these outrageous huge costly projects.

What dimension are these people from?

I just don't get any of it, really, it's like we are living inside a FELLINI MOVIE!

Mencken would have smiled.

If Chicago is the City of Big Shoulders then I guess
Portland is the City of Round Heels, developerwise.

Steve writes:
"My vote is the birth of a tram-from- Portland-to-the-top-of-Mt. Hood project."

Anyway, they already had a tram up to Mt Hood, but only from Gov'y (maybe street-car itfirst to Gov'y). I have seen old pictures of it, an old rusted out school bus from the '30s, hung on some cables and hauled up by towers on the old Glade trail.

I think that the SoWhat Tram looks like a modern version of what the flying school bus was back in the day.

We are witnessing the Sacking of Portland, people. These are historic times.

So incredibly accurate.

This is how WES was conceived. Exactly. Someone had some "brilliant" idea. It got talked about, and talked about.

Finally some guy from Colorado brought his model. (Almost right out of The Simpsons' "Marge vs. the Monorail episode.)

Suddenly, it was "Cool, we have a train, NOW where do we put it?" Instead of "Cool, we have a lot of people here, how do we move them?" People started looking at maps, and pointed their finger, THERE.

Beaverton, to Wilsonville.

Today, we have $165 million in capital money lost, largely to benefit the Portland & Western Railroad whose freight trains run on the new track.

We've lost several million dollars each year in operating costs.

We've had to cut back numerous bus lines to help pay for it.

And Highway 217 is still so screwed, Metro is actually admitting that it has to fix the highway - mass transit options simply aren't going to do it.

Wow. Does some organization give out awards for the best-written web comments yet?

One tunnel that is ongoing around here is what I call "the tunnel of deception."
Those who have been through it know what I mean.


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
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