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Will ‘Frog Ferry’ leap ahead or croak? Founder turns up warmth at Metropolis Corridor press convention

Group of people inside standing behind someone at a lectern in front of an old city building.

Susan Blandholm speaks at Wednesday’s press convention in entrance of Portland Metropolis Corridor.
(Photographs: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

It’s now or by no means for the Buddies of Frog Ferry (FOFF), the nonprofit group pushing for a passenger ferry system that may serve Vancouver and Portland on the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

After a number of years of momentum, FOFF are making a final ditch enchantment to Metropolis Corridor and TriMet to supply funding for his or her mission, even calling on the federal authorities to allocate funds from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.

At a press convention outdoors Portland Metropolis Corridor this morning, FOFF president and founder Susan Bladholm requested Portland Metropolis Council to rethink their current no vote on funding additional work on this mission. She particularly centered on Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and spoke out strongly in opposition to metropolis funding choices at a Council assembly final week.

Person with red hair speaking into a microphone


Eventually week’s assembly, Hardesty took concern with Commissioner Mingus Mapps’ motion to put aside $225,000 for FOFF analysis and operational funding within the FY 2021-22 spring supplemental price range.

It’s not the ferry system itself Hardesty stated she has an issue with. She has expressed curiosity on this concept earlier than, and acknowledges its potential feasibility. (We coated the 2020 Frog Ferry Feasibility Report, which digs extra into what this method would do for the Portland space.)

However proper now, Hardesty stated, there’s an excessive amount of baggage related to the mission for her to help allocating extra money for it.

One of many considerations Hardesty has is how FOFF has been utilizing authorities funds over the past a number of years. This is a matter dropped at metropolis staff’ consideration by TriMet employees firstly of this month.

Hardesty learn an e mail despatched from TriMet employees to metropolis staff on April 7 that accuses FOFF of in search of reimbursements that “don’t add up and preserve altering.” TriMet employees additionally accused Bladholm of taking shady measures to extend her wage on the nonprofit.

“This can be a severe concern as a result of it entails utilizing personal basis monies in methods that don’t conform to accounting requirements,” Hardesty stated.

TriMet is designated by the Oregon Division of Transportation (ODOT) to distribute funds from the Statewide Transportation Enchancment Fund (STIF) to transit initiatives within the Portland metro space. From Bladholm’s perspective, TriMet is failing to allocate FOFF’s $500,000 share of the STIF, they usually haven’t heard again from TriMet employees about what the issue is. She denies allegations of any sort of fraud, and says her group is an open e book for Council to research.

“We welcome an audit for Frog Ferry,” Bladholm stated at this morning’s press convention.

These monetary points aren’t the one downside Hardesty has with the mission. She additionally stated with all the opposite transportation initiatives taking place within the metropolis, this isn’t one thing PBOT can undertake proper now, and regardless of different organizational involvement, the transportation bureau must be concerned in a mission like this. Nonetheless, she doesn’t really feel PBOT has been adequately communicated with in regard to the mission.

“No one has had any conversations with me about shifting ahead a brand new transportation mission primarily based on all of the transportation initiatives I at the moment have on my plate,” Hardesty stated. “I notice you’re excited about seeing PBOT deal with transport transformative transportation initiatives. The problem is that the Bureau is already tackling quite a few transformative transportation initiatives.”

To Bladholm, Hardesty’s considerations about PBOT bandwidth are an try and exert energy over FOFF and the remainder of Council.

“Don’t withhold funds resulting from allegations and political posturing.”
— Susan Blandholm, Frog Ferry

“I can’t help employees or financial allocation to a mission dealing with these challenges and accusations.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, commissioner

“Commissioner Hardesty’s feedback are about energy and who’s in cost,” Bladholm stated. She identified that Frog Ferry might want to work with a number of metropolis bureaus outdoors PBOT, interfacing with different commissioners. This consists of Mapps, who runs the Bureau of Environmental Providers and Journey Portland.

From Hardesty’s perspective, nevertheless, there simply aren’t sufficient stakeholders prepared to have interaction, and he or she thinks an absence of multi-jurisdictional help for this mission makes it unreasonable for the town to wade in presently.

“Lots of people on the metropolis wish to see an thrilling new transit possibility supplied. I’m a type of individuals. However because it stands now, I can’t help employees or financial allocation to a mission dealing with these challenges and accusations,” Hardesty stated. “On the very least, I feel it will be the chargeable for this metropolis council to attend till the TriMet and Frog Ferry battle is resolved to any stage of readability that ensures we don’t take a vote we may find yourself regretting.”

Ultimately, the mission has been shelved till Frog Ferry can present Council they’re viable sufficient to proceed. However with federal funding on the road, Bladholm needs to see extra rapid help.

“We ask that you just convey this again to Metropolis Council instantly for one more request for an ordinance to make Frog Ferry a real associate for our federal grant utility. Time is brief. Assist us get all metropolis bureaus to work collectively to fund us with $225,000 to maintain us afloat, and don’t withhold funds resulting from allegations and political posturing,” Bladholm stated on the press convention. “That is actually about love for group. That’s the reason we’re doing this.”