The official line from Multnomah County has been silence, essentially, in ongoing problems with the Morrison Bridge. Spokespeople and a bridge engineer have declined to offer comment to the Mercury on claims new decking on the structure is slowly coming loose, other than to re-iterate that the Morrison is safe and that they're watching it closely.
This is (mostly) understandable. County attorneys appear to be readying a lawsuit in the perhaps-bungled project— though who they'll target remains to be seen—and staffers are carefully hewing to lawyers' directives not to manipulate that process with out-of-court chatter.
But one elected county leader, at least, offered a peak into lingering frustrations with the project at this morning's county commission meeting. The comment came as commissioners were quizzing Jon Henrichsen, a manager in the bridge division, about an upcoming project to replace enormous wheels [PDF] that let the Broadway Bridge open and close.
"I wonder if you could just talk about how this is distinguished from the Morrison Bridge deck replacement that turned out to be somewhat problematic for everybody," Shiprack said.
Henrichsen—noting the specialized nature of the work—advocated to the commissioners a hiring process that prizes a contractor's expertise over low estimates. A similar process may have saved headaches on the Morrison project. The county and the low-bid contractor in that project repeatedly clashed in the summer of 2011 over concerns toxic material was falling into the Willamette. And, as we reported this week, the county initially wanted to purchase the decking material for the Morrison Bridge project from a Raleigh, NC, outfit, but was prevented by a lower bid from a competitor. Now the low-bid decking material is allegedly coming undone—the topic of one lawsuit, with another probably on its way.
Under the hiring process Henrichsen pushed to the commission, "we hire a contractor based on expertise and negotiate price afterward," he said.
Shiprack: "Thus avoiding some of the issues we ran into with prior—"
Henrichsen: "We certainly hope so."
I reached out to Shiprack earlier this afternoon about her comments, but have yet to hear back.