A lingering riddle:

Back in November, the Portland Bureau of Transportation paid $40,000 (in federal grant funds) for a report. That's a lot of money, but this "system finance report" was supposed to bring its own rewards. In it, Alta Bicycle Share laid out its plans for finding $5.5 million in sponsorships to help purchase and run a bike share system.

The city's contract with Alta [PDF] dictates the report was to be submitted "with 100% of funds secured to acquire, install and operate a 75 station, 750 bike System for five years."

As the Mercury's reported, though, formal sponsorship agreements are still up in the air. And even the cost of a bike share system is relatively hazy now that the supplier we've been counting on filed for bankruptcy. So if there are no firm sponsorships, just what was in the $40,000 report? It's a question we asked more than a week ago. (The Mercury's been told that a copy of the report, released for public consumption, would be heavily redacted.)

The answer, sent by PBOT's Dylan Rivera on Wednesday, doesn't do much to clarify things.

Our contractor secured commitments from key sponsors late last year, however the sponsorship agreements were delayed due to PBSC’s bankruptcy in January. The City and our expected sponsors are now engaged in a renewed period of due diligence before finalizing any sponsorship agreements.

But if we're still exercising due diligence and scrutinizing agreements, how can the funds be "secured"? Is there some written agreement?

Rivera, in a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, didn't offer many answers.

"You’re getting into some nuances, and before I delve into those nuances I should probably check with project staff," he said. "We've said all along that we were very close to having sponsors firmed up."

"Close to having sponsors firmed up" isn't the same as "100% of funds secured." And now, with even the supplier of our forthcoming bike share system in the air, Rivera confirmed there are ongoing discussions.

"People don’t give you big checks without first asking a lot of questions," he said.

PBOT recently cut a $40,000 check. We're just asking what questions it had.