County Sinks Bridge Proposal, but Decision Still Looms of What to Do with Canby Ferry

The people spoke, and the county listened: There will be no bridge built to replace the Canby Ferry. 

As expected, commissioners weighed heavily the input received at a Jan. 15 public meeting at Canby Foursquare Church, and agreed to nix the idea of a toll bridge connecting Locust Street to SW Mountain Road, which even the lowest estimates suggested would funnel more than 10 times the current traffic counts through the area.

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners made the decision at a planning session Wednesday. Commissioner Ken Humberston, who’d attended the public hearing in Canby along with Commissioner Paul Savas, said the community could not have been clearer in opposing the bridge. They didn’t want the expense, and even if it paid for itself through toll revenue, they didn’t want the extra traffic on the rural farm roads that have been connected by nothing more than a ferry since 1914. 

Though the decision is certainly a victory for those who opposed the bridge, the matter is far from over. The bridge proposal was only a secondary consideration ina year-long feasibility study, the primary purpose of which had been to solve the problem of the Canby Ferry.

According to the county, the ferry costs over $400,000 more to run than it brings in each year, and it will need to be replaced in 15 to 20 years, at an estimated price tag of $2 million. As things currently stand, it looks unlikely that the county would agree to foot the bill for such a purchase. 

Nixing the bridge proposal does nothing to solve this problem, but it does simplify the options. Find some way to reduce expenses or bring in more revenue, or say goodbye to the ferry. Here’s Chair Jim Bernard.

Commissioners are asking for the public’s help in making their decision. At a listening session on Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 6-8 p.m., the board hopes to hear comments and ideas on whether to keep the Canby Ferry operating and, if so, how to reduce the funding gap. The meeting will be held at the Canby Foursquare Church, 2350 SE Territorial Road in Canby.

Commissioners Savas noted that options were raised by members of the public at the Jan. 15 meeting, including a local taxing district, and he’s looking forward to hearing more about them and other possibilities. But, he said, “We need to let the public know that continuing long-term with the status quo is not an option.”

The ferry’s current ridership averages only 200 passengers per day. And, the ferry cannot operate when the river level is above 70 feet or during inclement weather. It costs motorists $5 per vehicle for a one-time, one-way trip, although a 20-trip punch card can be purchased for $60.

More information about the study, including materials and a video from the Jan. 15 public meeting and an audio recording of the Board’s Jan. 30 planning session, is available online.

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