I was worried about the health of our Pendleton's city manager when he saw the impartial engineer's assessment that said the underpass was feasible and less costly to build. He looked like he might break a blood vessel as he bellowed? "This report won't do!"
The truth is that this was the agreement he had made as he pointed his finger at me saying, "You pick the independent engineer and the city will pay $2,000. Of the many thousands of dollars the city has collected, it has wasted huge sums on very ridiculous alternate overpass plans, trying to make the 23rd Street overpass plan less objectionable by comparison.
Two-thousand dollars doesn't pay for much with good engineers, I discovered in trying to find an impartial engineer to do the study. The issue was: Is an underpass feasible. We have been spoon fed over and over that we would have to go so deep we would have water problems that it would be too expensive to build, and would have constant problems with costly maintenance. Another issue cited is that the grade would be 12 percent. I even heard someone quote the city' s expert, Jerry Odman, saying it would be 20 percent. So the minimal amount for the study was to see if the underpass was feasible and would cost less.
Rep. Bob Jenson was there because he was hoping we would heal the division in the city and gain back trust in public officials. Jenson suggested I ask Anderson-Perry, a firm in LaGrande, to do the study. I did and Mr. Howard Perry talked it over with his colleagues and called back saying that they were not interested, not only because of the meager $2,000 offered, but because he said they have done some work for the city of Pendleton and the Oregon Department of Transportation. They would not want to jeopardize their relationship for the future so they would consider it a conflict of interest for them.
I then contacted Mr. Ernest Schrader, an engineer living in Walla Walla. He agreed to study the feasibility of the designed underpass. Mr. Schrader came to Pendleton, studied the site and the capability to build the underpass. He concluded that the underpass is not only feasible, it is probably much less expensive. It requires less real estate, has less impact on the environment and is probably safer.
"The underpass will shorten the travel distance and travel time compared to an overpass. It will also eliminate a proposed elevated intersection with signal at that could become a hazardous location with difficult alternate routing in the event of traffic accidents," said Mr. Schrader.
Obviously Ernest Schrader was not asked - for $2,000 - to do a detailed traffic structural, or geotechnical engineering study. Then Jerry Odman came in to say that Mr. Schrader is not an expert who "could study a project of this magnitude." That is the justification Larry Lehman is using to not pay the $2,000 he offered for the "engineer of my choice," and has talked Anderson-Perry into doing another study and will pay them $4,000. I have no objection to Anderson-Perry, even through they have said they have a conflict of interest because I believe they are professionals and will give an honest report.
Both the overpass plan and the underpass plan are preliminary, or should be, and can be adjusted to what is most desirable in the area of traffic alignment, etc. The issue of the study was the feasibility of the underpass. Mr. Ernest Schrader has noted that a reputable contractor has developed a cost estimate for several million dollars less than the overpass. With planning and design that allows the contractor to select the most efficient and cost-effective method of construction, it is more likely that the cost estimate for the underpass will decrease rather than increase.
Let's see if Jerry Odman is correct as he says, "Ernest Schrader is not an expert who could study a project of this magnitude." Mr. Schrader is probably the most highly recognized engineer in the Northwest. He holds a doctorate, master's and bachelor's degrees in civil engineering from Clarkson University, in New York. He holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Sheffield, U.K. His expertise is recognized not only in this country, but all over the world.
He has published approximately l00 articles for engineering journals, technical articles, congresses and symposiums. He has received so many awards it would be too lengthy to list them all, but they do include: Engineer of the Year from National Society of Professional Engineers for the entire U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Man of the Year, Presidential Design Award, Who's Who in Engineering, National Achievement Award, Outstanding Performance Award and many others.
He has just completed, as chief consultant, the longest tunnel ever built in China. He has just built 60 miles of highway in Montana. He is working on a huge dam in Argentina. Schrader is a world-class engineer, but if Jerry Odman says he isn't an expert who could study a project of Pendleton's underpass magnitude, I'm sure Jerry Odman must know something that the rest of the world of engineering doesn't know.
The city officials of Pendleton have used many political ploys such as the scare tactic of saying, "The money will go back to the fuel dealers if you don't vote for our overpass" and "we don't have time to switch to an underpass or we'll lose federal money."
The reputable contractor that can give a bond-assuring bid has said he could do turnkey construction beginning in 90 days. Isn't it time for city government in Pendleton to do the best for the whole population in and around Pendleton and not continue with the phony political ploys to pursue their hidden agenda to make the taxpayers pay to build a 23rd Street overpass in order to help private property owners develop their property?
Roy Comrie lives in Pendleton and has property that would be affected if the proposed overpass project is built.