planpdx.org: Interview with Rick Gustafson
Rick was an early transportation planner for Tri-Met, a member of the State Legislature, and the first Executive Officer for Metro. His accomplishments and contributions continue to this day.
Date of Interview: February 2003
Interview By: Ernie Bonner
Location: Rick's home in Portland, Oregon
RG = Rick Gustafson
EB = Ernie Bonner
EB: This is an interview with Rick Gustafson in his home in Portland, and it's February 8th in the year 2003. So Rick, start off by just giving us an idea about how you got to Portland.
RG: Well, I grew up in Oregon, in Portland, and I went off to college and was working at General Motors Corporation in the research labs in Detroit, and Earl Blumenauer was a good friend of mine, and he had just run for the legislature and encouraged me to return to Portland to run for the legislature. I was studying urban transportation systems at General Motors, and so I decided to apply to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon and Portland State, and got accepted at Portland State and got a fellowship, so I decided to come to Portland State's urban studies program and to run for the legislature.
So that's how I returned, and on the way Ron Buel called me and we talked seriously about me going to work at the City. Met with Ron and Neil, but they also referred me to Ed Wagner, and Ed was Director of Planning for Tri-Met, and so Ed offered me a job working at Tri-Met to plan the transit mall. So I was at school and working for Tri-Met and running for the legislature.
So I came here in September of '73.
EB: And you won for the '75 legislative session?
RG: Yeah. So in May I was elected to the legislature...
EB: Of '74?
RG: May of '74.
EB: How many terms were you there?
RG: Two terms.
EB: Two terms; the '75 and '77 sessions.
RG: Yes. So as an employee of Tri-Met to plan the transit mall, I also ended up doing an analysis of the benefits of the Mt. Hood Freeway to transit.
EB: To transit?
RG: Oh, yeah. [laughing]
EB: A big negative number, I guess.
RG: Well, if you recall, you know, at that time ODOT was promising everything and the moon, so they were going to put a busway in the middle of a freeway, so they were arguing they were going to provide fine transit service, too, to the region.
EB: And they were doing the EIS, too, down at Howard McKee's ...
RG: Howard McKee, right, at SOM.
EB: Were you a part of that?
RG: No, no. No, I was an employee of Tri-Met. They had done the EIS and they were presenting it, and so we got ourselves embroiled quite deeply in that whole thing, pretty much preparing a report for Council, and so here I'd been at Tri-Met for like four months, and I'm in front of the City Council presenting something. At that time Tom King refused to hire any planners, so Ed Wagner was the sole staff person, and I was contracted - I wasn't allowed to be an employee because planners were not allowed to be at Tri-Met.
EB: And Ed wasn't considered a planner?
RG: Well, yeah, he was one planner.
EB: Oh. I see.
RG: They agreed to have a Director of Planning, but that was it, no other employees. So I was just thrust right into the middle of that thing.
EB: So you showed up here in '73, is that right?
EB: September of '73. That's just about exactly the time I came, too.
RG: See, I had been at Carnegie Mellon before at the graduate school of industrial administration, and left to go to General Motors research because I couldn't get a draft deferment, and was readmitted to the School of Urban and Public Affairs, but chose not to go to Carnegie Mellon, chose to go to Portland State, and actually Carnegie Mellon was wanting to give me a year, so if this thing was a bust, you know, in terms of coming out here and running for the legislature and all that kind of stuff, I could have gone the following year for a doctorate in SUPA at Carnegie Mellon. But I never left.
EB: Talk a little bit about PSU at that time. Urban Studies is what it was then, too?
RG: Yeah, the Urban Studies Program. They had just started the doctorate program, and Nohad Toulan was the head of the department, and he was outstanding and really helpful to me. I had done a lot of transportation research with General Motors, so I came in with published articles and all that kind of stuff and was actually offered a fellowship - ended up I turned it down because I was working at Tri-Met, and I hadn't necessarily planned on working.
So I went through the program. Sumner was there at the time.
EB: Lyn Musolf, was he there?
RG: Lyn was still there. Then of course I got associated with Roger Shiels because Roger had been hired by Lloyd Anderson at Tri-Met to plan the transit mall. So my primary assignment was to represent Tri-Met in the planning of the transit mall
EB: You went to PSU nights?
RG: No, I worked it out to where I could go to my seminars and classes. So I was full time. I had earned my residency requirement while I was under contract to Tri-Met for the Ph.D., and so I got through the one year worth of full-time - you know, the full-time student status to qualify for the doctorate.
So because I was under contract Ed Wagner was flexible enough on the schedule to let me go to classes.
EB: You had your hands full then.
RG: It was kind of amazing. And I took the month of May off to run for the legislature.
EB: And you ran from what district?
RG: Southeast, East Multnomah County.
EB: Beyond 82nd?
RG: Yeah. So I was kind of an interesting candidate for the legislature because my opponents were Howard Willets, who was a well-known liberal Democrat, and then the other opponent was Jim Cuffner [?], and Jim was the Right to Life group and all that kind of stuff, and so all the odds were that either Howard would win, as the incumbent, or Cuffner would win, because of the difference in philosophy. And of course I was supporting city-county consolidation, and I was supporting diverting highway funds to transit. I think City and County went down nine to one in my district, and I think it was only four to one against the highway diversion.
EB: This is like state highway funds to be used for transit?
RG: Right. Because there was a bill to allow a one-cent gas tax to go to transit, and it got hammered, of course as opposed to the Mt. Hood Freeway, which I served the district that theoretically was going to get the biggest benefit out of.
EB: How do you think you won?
RG: Just sheer brute force. Canvassing. I personally canvassed every house twice. I had all of $1800, and I just basically would be out every night, you know, from 4:00 to 8:00 or 9:00 canvassing. Started in January, and then in May it was every day all day long. So that's what I did.
My mother taught in the district, and my dad delivered the milk in the district, so there was, of all things, this weird sort of familiarity; not necessarily knowing us, but you know, all the attachments could be made.
EB: And was the same thing true in '76 when you ran again?
RG: Well, in '76, then, I got into trouble because people started finding out about me, and then Lonnie Roberts ran against me. So I won by only 300 votes. Then I won again in '78 by another 300 votes, but then I resigned the position to run for Metro.
EB: So you actually took office but then resigned?
RG: Well, I was elected in May, nominated in May, and then Metro was formed in May of '78, so then I resigned my nomination and ran for Metro in November.
EB: Talk a little bit about Metro and how it got started.
RG: Well, I guess it goes all the way back to the '60s when the Metropolitan Steering Committee was formed, and Kay Rich was the Executive Director, and an intern for that was a guy by the name of Don Carlson. They studied regionalizing things, and they did form CRAG (Columbia Region Association of Governments) in - what? - like '67 or something like that.
EB: It must have been in the late '60s, right.
RG: Yeah, it was one of the typical regional kind of coordinating bodies that were being formed. Actually, the first council of governments formed in the United States was formed in Salem.
EB: Oh, right. What was the name of that guy that ran that?
RG: Kent Matheson, City Manager of Salem, with the first Chair of the first regional council was Jerry Frank, and the governor who got Eisenhower to form it was Mark Hatfield.
Anyway, so these guys put the Columbia Regional Association of Governments together, and in 1967 the Port was made a three-county organization, and so the regionalization was starting. There was an election or legislation in '67 to create a metro-city or something like that, and Roger Martin, representing Lake Oswego, made the mistake of supporting this thing ...
EB: And they killed him?
RG: Well, he didn't lose, but it was a big mistake on his part because there was complete opposition in Lake Oswego to becoming part of Portland, but there was some sort of redoing of the boundaries to regionalize, and as a result of those kinds of initiatives to deal with the regional issues, they pro-posed forming a Metropolitan Service District as a compromise, bringing the three counties into a regional service district, and the idea was that they'd use this and have county commission-ers and the city mayor and all that kind of stuff on the board, and they would regionalize that way.
It was going along fine, but some people decided they needed to have a vote to form it, and they needed a vote to fund it. This was in '69, and then Rose City announces that it's going bankrupt, and the transit union goes down to the legislature, and they work up this temporary legislation to save the transit union and Rose City, and they form the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District, but it was really in conflict with the Metropolitan Service District, and so it was Connie McCready, who was a legislator at the time, who basically struck the compromise to allow this temporary organization to be created, Tri-Met, and have a provision that if MSD was formed by the voters that MSD would then assume responsibility for Tri-Met.
So that's how they put that provision in, and so the two things were formed, and MSD then was put on the ballot and it was passed in May, but then the tax base failed in November. So it was formed, but it had actually no money. Then Tri-Met was formed, and it was formed to consolidate the Blue Stage lines and Rose City, and Bill Roberts was of course made the chair.
It's funny because Ed Stewart [?], a real Gresham leader type, was telling me stories about being one of the first Tri-Met board members, and he'd have to go to the Congress Hotel and they'd have their private meetings with Bill. And really no one talked; they just sat around and Bill gave them the instructions for the month.
EB: He learned all he knows from Ira Keller.
RG: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean that's how private business boards ran, you know.
So they went through that whole business, and that's where they hired the Admiral, King, you know, to run Tri-Met, and clearly the purpose here wasn't to really do anything for transit. That's why King wouldn't hire any planners. So Ed got hired out of some pressure really from Neil's office to do something, and I was laughing because then when I showed up in '73 they'd been in existence since '69, and Roberts had pulled off the payroll tax. His major contribution to creating Tri-Met was to basically bludgeon the business community into accepting the payroll tax for transit, but they were just building up cash balances because he wanted to get enough money to build the transit mall.
EB: I see.
RG: So expanding transit was the last thing they cared about. They had hired all these characters from Rose City. I mean, Tri-Met at that time was absolutely phenomenal, phenomenally incompetent, and very close to corrupt.
Ray Booth was the Operations Manager and was an alcoholic, and in the afternoons he literally couldn't find the floor to put his foot on it, you know. And King would be scared of him because Booth would threaten to call a strike, see? So Booth would go drinking with Schoppert,(?) see, every noon. They'd go out and have martinis and ...
EB: Is this the union guy, Schoppert?
RG: Yeah, Mel Schoppert was the head of the ATU.
I remember this guy, the Personnel Director, Putnam, and he went in to King and he said, "Eighteen of the last nineteen hires in operations are family members of existing employees," and he said, "This has got to stop."
So King calls in Booth, and Booth tells him he's going to call a strike if he pulls any of that kind of stuff, and Putnam resigns.
EB: Kill the messenger, eh?
RG: It was unbelievable. They had taken four years, you know, trying to get these little blue triangle signs up to signal where a bus stop was, and they had a federal grant for it, and they couldn't quite figure out how to do it, and it had taken them four years to get this grant approved.
So here's Neil's office running a little faster, you know, and fortunately, Lloyd Anderson was smart enough to retain Roger to do the transit mall, because basically, you know, I was the representative for Tri-Met, but I basically had total opposition internally. "This isn't going to work," and "Why the hell are we doing this," you know, "isn't the system just running fine?"
Oh, and even their scheduler, Smitty, would just basically sleep in his office. One time he woke up and he looked in his desk, you know, and he pulled out a schedule, and he comes out and says, "I changed this schedule, what is this schedule that you guys did, I thought I had changed this," you know, and sure, he had, and he didn't even check the date; the thing he had in his desk was 15 years old.
So literally all of the departments were just - well, I mean, the operators were fine and they'd go out and run the buses, but I mean King had no control in that place.
EB: When did Steve McCarthy go in? There was a board shake-up first.
RG: Well, yeah. Steve came in about September of '74, and what had happened was earlier that year, I think it was February, related to the Mt. Hood Freeway decision, Neil had finally convinced McCall to make a change in the Tri-Met board so that there was an active board, rather than Bill Roberts running things. So they worked out the final deal to where Bill could chair the Transit Mall Committee and build the transit mall, but there would be a new board appointed.
So they were all ready for Bill Roberts to announce he was going to resign as the Chair of the Tri-Met board, but apparently they got mixed up on the timing, he wasn't going to announce it until the afternoon, and McCall slipped up and announced the new board in the morning, so they screwed up the whole orchestration of taking care of Bill. So it was "Roberts Gets Fired," you know.
So that's when Jerry Drummond and Elsa Coleman and Steve McCarthy and Ken Lewis were appointed to the board, and then King convinced Steve to be the Deputy, and that's when I almost got fired. It was really funny. At that time, when they brought in the new board, they hired 33 people for the Planning Department, so we went from one to 33.
They were interesting hires, you know. G.B. Arrington was part of that, Bob Post, Bill Allen. So there was a good set of people who were brought in - you know, who had long-term commitment to Tri-Met and the work they did, and that was to do the STS study, the suburban transit station study, and the busways from all the park and ride lots and stuff like that.
Then I remember Ernie Munch and I got assigned to plan the West Side park and ride station. We ripped off interstate money to build the park and ride lot, so ODOT let us be hired, see - well, Ernie and I were just the kibitzers from the City and Tri-Met, but Will Martin was hired to plan the park and ride lot, and Bob Bothman, you know, just let us run loose. So we had separated walkways over the freeway and different levels for bus and cars, and he built this model, you know; it was 300 parking spaces for $18 million.
So it tried to make its way up for people to review it, you know, but it was so absurd that the whole thing just basically collapsed, right? And that's when they assigned it over to the toilet designers from ODOT - you know, the guys who do the rest stops, they designed the park and ride station.
That was the best lesson from Bothman about, you know, "You really don't need any help hanging yourself, you're doing a really good job all on your own."
So all those people were brought into planning, and obviously the screws were down on trying to do something because we'd just gotten rid of the freeway, and we thought there had to be some kind of an answer, and of course the Highway folks were just beating the crap out of us about transit's not an option, right?
During the legislature we faced this battle over whether or not the thing was going to be voted on because Fred Meyer was pressing, and at the same time that Mt. Hood was going on, Doug Wright was redesigning I-205, and I got involved in that, too. Fred Meyer then, when he lost his interchange at Gateway, you know, funded Glen Otto and Vern Cook to roust up the troops and the revolt was on.
We had a measure in the legislature to require a public vote statewide on whether to build the Mt. Hood Freeway or not, and fortunately we got Al Dinsmore from Medford to collaborate with us, and we got the things referred to the Elections Committee, and he promised never to hold a hearing on it. It was leading in the polls nine to one, you know, and we were dead meat if it ever got on the ballot.
EB: This is after the City said no?
RG: Yeah, the City said no like in February '74, and then the following year (1975 session) there was a bill introduced to require an election on whether or not to build the freeway. I made the motion, and the payback for that was Glen Otto then sought an Attorney General's opinion as to whether or not I could serve in the legislature and work for Tri-Met, and the Attorney General ruled I couldn't. So I had to sue Tri-Met.
EB: Now, you had to sue Tri-Met why?
RG: Because Tri-Met had to follow the Attorney General's opinion and in essence notify me that I would be terminated when I returned to the legislature.
EB: So you sued them then.
RG: So then I had to take action, and it was great because I wanted Chris Thomas to represent me, okay, but he couldn't because he represented Tri-Met. So Frank Pozzi - Keith Burns was the Governor's Assistant at that time, and he arranged for Frank Pozzi to represent me, but Chris Thomas wrote the brief on my behalf and gave it to Pozzi, see, so Pozzi was just listed by the Governor to help keep my job. Lee Johnson was the Attorney General, and he was a Republican, so they were more than happy to beat up on me. So I had to go to court, and it took about two minutes for the Judge to rule because, you know, in the legal progression, if the Attorney General rules, then only a Judge can overrule an Attorney General's opinion as legal opinion.
We were starting the Banfield study, and Ernie and I again were the team, the City and Tri-Met team to work on the busway and rail option for the Banfield.
EB: Two different options?
RG: Yeah. And at that time ODOT had only one option, which was Gateway, down the middle of the freeway and across the Morrison Bridge.
EB: For a busway?
RG: Or rail. Either one. And no stops, from Gateway to down-town, because you want to get those commuters down there as fast as you can, right? So Ernie and I started to work, and we were trying to move it to the side, and of course that can't be done because you have off-ramps; not allowed to do that.
EB: Because the right-of-way would get right in the middle of those off-ramps and complicate their designs and ...
RG: Well, and they couldn't figure out how to get the cars across the rail, see, and so it was just too hard. So there was no way that they would consider that option, and we fought and fought and fought, and finally started to get some leeway. Of course Neil's office was torn because they were anxious to get something done for Governor Straub, and the rail option was very threatening because no one knew anything about rail, and it was Jerry Drummond and Steve McCarthy who were pushing that, and we had no capacity, no capability.
That's when I remember bringing in - we called them the Smith Brothers, Wilbur Smith and - both guys were bearded just like the cough drops guys, and we called them the Smith Brothers; at 500 bucks a day, they were going to help us out. But in that sense Jerry and Steve made a huge commitment to try to tool up to have some capability of building rail because ODOT was thumping to separate the two environmental impact statements. See, ODOT knew that the rail information would not come in on time, could well ruin their NEPA process, and they wouldn't get it built. So they were advocating eliminating rail and were close to convincing Neil to do that, and Jerry adamantly refused to separate the two corridor studies, that it had to be one corridor study and we were going to make one decision.
That's of course when you had the Glenn Jackson, Neil, and Drummond triumvirate that was running the show. They had a tough decision to make because there was absolutely no proof that Tri-Met could produce anything to be able to stay up with a rapid construction; whereas pouring concrete, you know, and rebuilding the freeway, ODOT could do that for buses or ...
By that time Neil had convinced Glenn Jackson to separate Metro from the State, and Bothman reported directly to Jackson, so you didn't have all that going on down in Salem, all the punishment, you know.
EB: That was important, too. Right.
RG: Oh, God, yes, because then Bothman was on board to accommodate the decision of those three, and it was a beautifully set up situation.
Anyway, Ernie and I convinced them to get to the side. Bob Conrad became critical to us. Then the other part was getting them to run into the Lloyd District. They were refusing to do that. They wouldn't go up and onto Holladay Street, as much sense as it makes today, you know. I was even trying a 28th stop, but I couldn't get that one. We got Hollywood. To me it was just simple: you drop down on the right-of-way, and then you come up, and it was kind of like your own braking system, anyway. You know, as you approached the next stop, you'd just come popping back up to street level and then back down again.
EB: That's interesting because I've always wondered why we decided to do light rail. I remember being the Chair of a Technical Committee during the development of the CRAG transportation plan, and that plan called for a busway in the Banfield. What happened to change to that to a light rail decision?
RG: Well, there was a huge amount of advocacy for rail transportation, and it came from all sides. Lon Topaz' report in 1972, a PUC report on the reuse of existing rail lines, created a whole kind of mantra about, you know, a strong interest in that kind of stuff, and Willamette Traction Company was formed with Bill Naito and Bill Failing and Betty Merten, with the goal of putting rails back on First Avenue where they originally started.
Then you had the fight over Multnomah County and I-205, see, because Don Clark and Mel Gordon were adamant to have rail, and their price ultimately to Jackson for approving the freeway construction, because it was not done, was a stronger voice in rail. So you had all these different things going on, and then Drummond and McCarthy got on board with providing some horsepower behind the technical work, and so there became an increasing willingness to look at that decision, and that decision was made in '78 in October, by CRAG. Transportation decisions, of course, everybody makes them, so the City of Gresham, Multnomah County, Portland, Tri-Met, and CRAG all had to approve. The final decision was made in October of '78, and there's a kind of an interesting relationship because the election for the Metro Council was a few weeks later, after the decision on the light rail, and we had a retreat in December, and Cindy and Mike ...
EB: Cindy Banzer and Mike Burton.
RG: ... were angry that CRAG had snuck this light rail decision in before they had a chance to review it.
EB: They were elected, but they weren't ...
RG: They weren't there yet. And so we were at our retreat, and they find out that the light rail decision had just been made - I mean, you appreciate that by the time it gets to CRAG, the decision had been made already ...
EB: Yeah, right.
RG: ... a long time before. The EIS had been going on for two years, the City Council had already voted, the Multnomah County Commission had voted, Gresham had voted, Tri-Met had voted, then you finally bring it to CRAG, right, for the regional approval, right? So all of the decisions have been lined up and it's all sitting there, and we were ready to go with the Mt. Hood transfer funds, you know, to build it, and Cindy and Mike wanted to revisit the decision as the new Metro Council, and I panicked.
I went to Neil and said, "I've got a real problem here." It was a classic case of how do you set yourself up to be an idiot to me because there's only one decision you could make, for Christ sake, everybody else has already made it. So you get to review it, you delay everybody, but you have to vote yes, you know, so it's like the worst political thing they could do.
So we decided to set up a local government committee as part of the MPO process, so that it immediately forced a discussion on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the role of Metro as an independently elected board, and it was that threat that set up JPAC (Joint Policy Action Committee) at Metro, and the Governor then made it abundantly clear that - well, obviously with Neil making sure that he was making it clear ...
EB: By that time it was Straub?
RG: Well, you have to understand, it was still Straub, but only for another month because it was about to be our just dear friend and supporter, fine friend, Vic Atiyeh. So how fast could you have this little sucker unravel, you know, if Atiyeh gets hold of it and wants to rethink the Mt. Hood Freeway.
EB: Let me go back a little bit and see if you have any insight into this. Before it got to Metro and went through a review there, number one, I guess Drummond and McCarthy were able to keep rail in the analysis ...
EB: ... it went through the analysis, and people began recommending the light rail part of it. Enough political power came up so that they felt safe that they could actually approve it, and then each of the individual jurisdictions had its own little review of it, and so they started adopting the light rail option, too. So this happened over a period of a couple years, right?
RG: Right. Through the EIS process and the review process, but it was really a result of the classic - you know, when an innovative idea strikes around here, there's a group of people who start insisting on it. It's kind of interesting how that happens. So more and more, and that just grew, whether it was the Public Utility Commissioner doing a study on rail, which is interesting, to groups forming, advocacy groups. Larry Griffith, of course, was out giving his rail speech of the week, that popular dentist.
So you had all this neighborhood community agitation behind the rail, and then I wouldn't diminish at all Mel Gordon and Don Clark's role - you know, being just absolutely insistent upon rail. They were adamant.
Gresham was always a four-to-three vote on anything. Al Myers was the Mayor and he was supporting the Mt. Hood freeway. I think we had six different votes out there. The vote kept coming out 4-3, and they kept bringing it back up, and we'd have to trundle people out there to try to hold together the four votes that we had for rail. And each time Myers would vote against it.
EB: So he was always losing, but he was always voting against it.
RG: Yeah. And as mayor, he kept bringing it up, you know. He wanted to redo the Mt. Hood Freeway.
The other piece of that design battle was the cross mall alignment, which was deeply imbedded. The mall had the last brick placed about 1978, and '76 was Neil's election with all the construction. So Ernie was pushing for the transit mall alignment, and Neil was in a tough position trying to figure out how to do that.
There's been a great history of that because the City Council resolved the debate by putting it on the cross-mall for the time being, but committing that the next rail would be on the mall.
RG: So in '79 Neil was appointed Secretary of Transportation and left Portland, and we were getting ready to start the West Side rail study, and Steve Siegel was going to head up the environmental impact statement, and we obtained agreement - really, with Neil leaving, the City's role was obviously now in limbo because after much non-decision they appointed Connie as Mayor, and so the City was floating around. So we moved in to do the EIS for the West Side.
EB: As consultants?
RG: No, as Metro. So Metro was starting the West Side EIS.
The progression of events that occurred then were Reagan gets elected, Bob Duncan loses, and Atiyeh is still Governor, and Ivancie becomes Mayor. So the lineup, you know, Ivancie for the freeway, and Atiyeh for the freeway, and Reagan for the freeway, we had all enemies. In a very short period of time we went from friends of all this planning to enemies of all this planning, and the freeway funds then became very critical to us.
Actually, I wasn't concerned about the light rail line. I was concerned about the region holding together the agreement to fund the rail line and wanting to make sure there was enough money flowing in the appropriations to handle road projects while we were doing the light rail project. So I called up Neil and had him come in. He was back in town, and he said that it was over, you weren't going to get any help and you were screwed.
Then I called up Bob Duncan, and he was in Washington D.C. and had joined Schwabe Williamson, and I asked him if he'd represent us. I didn't have any money, you know, to do this, but he said, "Sure," and I said, "Fly out here." So he came out and set up meetings with Vic Atiyeh and Frank Ivancie to start organizing what to do about the federal changeover that had occurred. And of course the Republicans had taken over the Senate, which was the only saving grace for us because Hatfield was the chairman of appropriations.
So he set up meetings with Vic Atiyeh and Frank, and all they did was commiserate about how stupid it was to lose that freeway, and I said, "Bob, I'm paying you, and you're not in Congress any longer, you're working for me. Would you help me out here? We're trying to get the light rail line built; we aren't trying to build a damn freeway."
It was Drummond who came in and saved my butt. I had no money to pay him or anything, so Drummond stepped in and Tri-Met paid him, Feeney took over, and we formed a consortium of Metro, Tri-Met, and Frank and the Governor, to get the money. We went back there. We had the first meeting with the Secretary of Transportation, Jude Lewis [?] - we were the first delegation to meet with the new secretary. Bob had lined this up, see? Bob had incredible access there. We had an appointment with everybody, except the only one who didn't have time for us was Bob Packwood; it's kind of interesting.
But Stockman had zeroed out all rail projects less than ten percent complete, so the President's budget that was announced in February, just before we arrived, zeroed us out. So rail was threatened, along with all the road projects.
So we worked through that.
RG: So this was in '81, actually, when the federal funding crisis was that Stockman - Reagan had issued his first budget in February of '81, and it basically zeroed out MAX.
EB: I see. So all of this didn't really materialize until '81?
RG: The money dynamics, because while Carter was still in office, we had the full cooperation of the Administration. Neil was orchestrating it through the Secretary of Transportation, and Carter was helpful. Duncan was the appropriations subcommittee chair then. The only problem with Duncan was he was extracting an additional local match out of us. It was really bizarre, what he was doing to us. As a member of the appropriations subcommittee, he was forcing more money out of Tri-Met. He had his own opinions. He was a beyond-bizarre character. His transportation solution was dirigibles, you know, and have escalators that drop down from - and pick up people in Gresham and bring them down to Portland.
EB: So eventually how did you secure that funding?
RG: Well, what happened was the Reagan Administration understood the commitment of the interstate transfer funds, and so they were prepared to allow the interstate transfer funds to be used for that purpose, because that's legal, and it's not within that appropriation they were trying cover. They were cutting Section III transit funds, the straight general fund capital funds from transit, and so what happened was the Banfield was funded, you know, in several categories, some interstate transfer, and $60 million of Section III UMPTA funds, and Stockman zeroed out the $60 million, and they refused to have any of their new starts money go to rail, see, because that would open up the floodgates for other rail projects.
Of course, you can appreciate the time: Atlanta had built their boondoggle, and it wasn't working and wasn't having any riders and they'd done an awful job, right, and so there were plenty of reasons to declare rail the worst thing that has ever arrived.
EB: Right. Still today.
RG: Yeah. So the deal was we had to - this is where the term "switchy-switchy" became popularized; that was the Ted Spence/Steve Siegel deal. We then proposed that we get rid of all Section III money on the light rail and that we do only inter-state transfer money. The money we had set aside, though, was - we had $60 million set aside for the West Side, okay? We had to convince Washington County to give up their $60 million in exchange for federal transit dollars that could be spent on park and ride and buses but could not be spent on rail, had to stay pure, could not be spent on rail. So we had to switch a $60 million federal grant that Hatfield was pushing for, and the Administration got for its price: that it didn't set a precedent of funding rail projects. So we did the switch, and the West Side ended up with no rail dollars, but only bus dollars, and so that's when park & rides and all that kind of stuff were going to be built out there.
So that's how basically we worked out the funding agreement with UMPTA, was to fund it all the interstate transfer money.
EB: That took - well, that was five years, wasn't it, between '81 and '86, then, that all of that took place. When was construction actually started, do you remember?
RG: Two years later, '83. They were done almost a full year in advance, and do you remember, they were busy testing the system, and these poor people were walking out on the rails, and I think we killed four or five?
EB: At the very beginning.
RG: Before we ever started.
EB: Yeah, I remember that.
RG: So it was, you know, "MAX kills another one."
EB: Plus it ran off the tracks downtown. Yeah, there were some problems.
RG: Yeah, there were a lot of them, and I remember Neil was running for Governor and had to think about whether it would be beneficial to be at the opening of rail, you know, within two months of running for Governor. Fortunately - I mean, I couldn't imagine him not going, you know, having been so typed with it, you know, and so he went, and Norma had named it WPPSS on Wheels.
EB: Yeah, I remember that. She had a way with words.
RG: Yep. So it took about an hour, wasn't it for the general public to absolutely love it.
EB: Yeah, right.
RG: You know, because here it was, there was all this uncertainty and all this uncertainty, it's a WPPSS on Wheels, and should we go, and the thing runs, and that weekend was spectacular.
EB: Oh, yes. People climbed all over it.
RG: Oh, God, yeah.
EB: Well, let's talk a little bit about the urban growth boundary stuff. I guess where that starts is with the LCDC around '73.
RG: Yes. There was a companion bill to Senate Bill 100 in '73, Senate Bill 769, that basically gave the land use authority, the urban growth boundary authority, to CRAG. So it empowered CRAG in a different manner than CRAG had been set up previously and gave it direct state authority rather than just the federal coordination authority.
EB: Right. Now, was that pretty controversial at the time?
RG: Well, it sucked right in behind. I mean, Senate Bill 100 was highly controversial, and 769 - well, it ended up being controversial because of subsequent elections because the foundation of Senate Bill 100 was on the ballot twice, and so was 769. The "Abolish CRAG" was basically an attack on 769; you know, the formal authority creating CRAG, and that was voted on in '76.
What made CRAG so unpopular was the housing goals and the land use checking that was going on, the oversight, because the process was, you know, a comprehensive plan was adopted, you submitted it to Metro for review, and then Metro forwarded it on to LCDC, and you were in the middle of that stuff, you know, and trying to have all that documentation and everything else. With CRAG, the CRAG process, the primary focus, the major productive element that they gave was the formation of the boundary itself and the agreement among the board to form the boundary. A lot of the other stuff that came out of CRAG at that time was - you know, the housing thing was probably the most controversial part of it from the local governments, and it was a real battle with all the suburban jurisdictions to get them to really truly set a comprehensive plan in place. CRAG was suing Happy Valley for one-acre lots, and the whole bit.
One thing CRAG didn't do that I started doing, which just added a little extra fuel on the fire, was we started filing objections to land use permits outside the urban growth boundary with five-acre kinds of farmland deals that were going on out in Clackamas County and Washington County, and needless to say they just thought that was a terrific thing that we were doing, and we sort of made it part of our business because it wasn't even in our boundary.
EB: It was really hard then because people couldn't really believe that Metro would have that kind of power over their own authority and jurisdiction, so that was a hard thing.
RG: Yeah. And the boundary that we were handed was, in my opinion, a joke.
EB: Now, where did that boundary come from? Do you remember?
RG: Well, it was adopted formally by CRAG through the regional process, okay, but the way it was really adopted was in 1971, I think, or '73, the USA sewer boundary in Washington County was adopted by the local government boundary commission, and that was the boundary in Washington County.
EB: That was, effectively, an urban growth boundary.
RG: Right, because they adopted where they were going to provide sewer service and assessed properties accordingly. So for all of the demand studies and analysis you wanted to do, that boundary never changed from 1973 all the way to '79 when it was adopted by LCDC. It was kind of like you just shrugged your shoulders, "What are we going to do here?" And what we were going to do is wait twenty years, right, until it fills, which is exactly what's happened, but we had to go through of course an inordinate amount of effort to get from here to that.
EB: But didn't that show up on Metro's agenda as one of their first things to do?
RG: Our job was actually it hadn't been acknowledged by LCDC. So about January of '79 when we started, one of our tasks was to get the whole bugger acknowledged, and so two things happened. One is that it became unclear in the law whether or not we had the urban growth boundary authority. So you're stuck with this dilemma.
EB: So 769 wasn't that clear?
RG: Well, no. The change in Metro clouded that issue because of the abolish CRAG thing.
EB: Oh, because 769 was given to CRAG, but we abolished CRAG.
RG: Right. And so you end up with this new authority, and all we had was functional planning authority. We didn't have the direct assignment of the urban growth boundary. So you could argue we had it because we inherited the responsibilities of CRAG, but you were sitting here in this gray area trying to figure out what to do, right?
EB: And you don't dare go back to the legislature for clarity.
RG: Well, we did. Ultimately we ended up going to the legislature and getting legislation passed clarifying our authority. This was back in the days when the legislature would actually cooperate with you; that ended about '83.
So we actually ultimately went to the legislature and got formal urban growth boundary authority, and then we had to go through acknowledgment. I distinctly remember, I called in Henry Richmond and Bob Stacey to visit with them about options, and being the neophyte I hadn't quite - I kind of remembered them as friends, you know, and so I hadn't made it clear how we were meeting, which was, "Look, I just need your advice, I've got a quandary here, do I ask for the authority, do I not ask for the authority, blah, blah, blah," you know, and "We can go this way, we can go this way, how do we do this," you know.
After the meeting, Henry sends a memo documenting what I'd said, right, all the different options and everything, and copies it to the whole Council and to the City Council and to everybody else. I went, "Whoa," and appreciated him helping me deliberate on what position I ought to take, right? But we got over it.
So we had to get legislation to change the authority, and then we went down to LCDC to get it acknowledged, and the sad part was that it was clearly too large, the whole criteria for how to set a boundary, but there wasn't anything any of us could do. It was acknowledged ultimately by LCDC, and then 1000 Friends appealed it, and it languished, you know, for ...
EB: Thank God for all that process; otherwise, it never would have happened, you know, because people would have been so stunned by the possibility of it, they wouldn't have done any-thing. The process strung it out and made it not such a terrible thing, and so eventually everybody compromised to the extent that was necessary ...
EB: And like you say, the real thing was, "Well, we have to wait a while before this takes effect."
RG: Yeah. And you know, kind of the beauty of the '70s in my mind was - the kind of key things was that there were so many smaller underlying kinds of commitments that were made that made this stuff work, and one of them was extremely important to Metro, but was made before Metro was formed, and that was when - and I remember it because Beaverton was doing their comprehensive plan, and Beaverton had two different transportation models presented to us for its own plan, one by ODOT, and one by CRAG, and of course they showed, you know, a one-percent mode split on the ODOT model, and 25 percent, you know, and so, "Gee, the Beaverton plan works under the Tri-Met model and doesn't work under the ODOT model, and it's the same data."
And through those different controversies coming up, Neil, Drummond and Jackson agreed to terminate ODOT's transportation plan, and Tri-Met agreed to terminate theirs, and they decided to invest all their money in one model ...
EB: At the regional level.
RG: ... and they went out and hired Bill Ocher to create the technical credibility on regional modeling, and it set the pattern for - it was done about '75; Ocher came in, did a fabulous job of building a very credible regional model system, and he brought in Keith Lawton, and so the modeling momentum started. And that commitment - and several times we had to struggle to hold it together because there was times that people wanted to pull out, but maintaining that commitment to one single trusted model, where you've worked your assumptions on the model rather than you fought your assumptions out of the results of your two different models, right, was a huge difference in the suburbs, I think, in terms of building that level of technical cooperation, you know, and results of assumptions of what's going to happen in your plan and what's going to happen in your community and your traffic, did a tremendous job of removing that as the primary - you know, so often you just argue about the biased data, and it helped remove that. That has been a tremendous asset for 25 years, and it's one of the best recognized models in the country.
EB: Plus it puts a lot of power in the hands of the suburbs, the small communities that really can't have that kind of effort on their own, but if they can wiggle around with the one they've got, if they have a little bit of say on the assumptions, I think that makes a big difference. What's another situation you'd like to talk about?
RG: How about I-205? It was part of my legislative district, I bordered on it, and I-205 was critically tied into Neil's need, his determination to build credibility with a transportation solution, as opposed to just being a transit nut. Conrad was hired, and Doug Wright, who went to work on redesigning that freeway because it was a classic problem of an eight-lane freeway with interchanges at every main street. It was estimated between $50 million and $100 million would have to be invested by the City and the County to accommodate the traffic that would be dumped on their streets, and Division Street had no capacity to handle it in the city, and Powell Boulevard had no capacity to handle it in the county. So you had all these weird things, and then that god-awful interchange at Gateway coming right down into the middle of Fred Meyer's property.
EB: That had been held up, I-205 had been held up mainly by the County. And ODOT, Glenn Jackson and those people, were really anxious to get something going. So they were really looking for a solution, and in a way I don't think they cared really what it was. They wanted a solution, and they wanted to get to building that road.
RG: Right. In fact, it had been built to the Columbia River in Clark County, and it had been built to the Clackamas County boundary, and it sat there vacant for nine years.
So the payback for getting rid of the Mount Hood freeway was to take this one and figure out how to make it palatable in the community, and right away it was cleared. I mean, there wasn't anything to save. It was a done deal, except what was it going to do to everybody as a result. And I ended up being much more deeply involved than I would be normally as a legislator. I think we went through several sessions down in Salem actually when Doug and Conrad would come down and we'd work it over.
They got rid of the cloverleaf interchanges and went to diamond interchanges, and then the Gateway interchange was recommended to be removed because it got rid of all the high structures, and then the big issue was how to protect the freeway so that it didn't take too much traffic, and they basically worked the strategy to get rid of short trips on the freeway, with the frontage road system so that you had to be on there for a minimum of a mile-and-a-half. If you got on it, you couldn't get off of it right away. So the whole system was built to force - substantially if you got on it, you went out of that area. You didn't just move up and down the corridor, that it was a regional system.
What it did were two things; one, it reduced the traffic load to the point they could argue it could be six lanes instead of eight. The second thing it did, it had projected that 82nd traffic was going to drop by 50 percent, and by redoing this, 82nd traffic only dropped by 25 percent. If you think of the analogy with the Minnesota freeway and what the Minnesota Freeway did to Interstate Avenue, it just devastated it; it ended any commercial traffic on that road, and it basically wipes out all the businesses, and the same thing could have happened to 82nd Avenue with I-205. Not that it's a great street, but I guess those businesses are useful, obviously. But it was the whole point of literally throwing away whole corridors by building a new corridor and not even thinking about it. So it was amazing the level of sophistication, I think, in understanding all these different issues at that time.
Then the other part was, of course, you do all that crazy stuff with Powell and Division, so that you wouldn't load traffic onto a street that couldn't take it, and they literally - I mean, their objective was straight out to limit how much the City and County were going to have to pay in additional road improvements to take care of this thing, and they pulled it off.
Then of course the ultimate political deal was that Jackson was on the Fred Meyer board, and Fred Meyer went nuts when his freeway interchange was taken out, and then it became known in the newspaper that Jackson was on the Fred Meyer board, and as a result Jackson - a brilliant man - resigned from that board, because he wasn't doing that to help Fred Meyer, he was facilitating decisions and getting that stuff done, and he had a smart rule that's good to implement is when his name made it in the paper, he had to study it closely and that meant that it was time to get off the board. That was an added little twist on that deal.
Then the other piece that was even more amazing was to cut in the rail alignment into I-205 with the tunnel, and basically, to please the County, to put the corridor right down there and prepare it for them as part of the whole right-of-way deal.
Conrad's work, that and the determination to get rid of - that whole traffic planning we did in the Downtown Plan to get rid of through traffic, so the way we could have essentially a 20 percent reduction in traffic without any change in the use of downtown was by limiting people who were only driving through it. Again, that level of traffic sophistication at that time was an amazing asset because that's what saved the downtown.
Now, the same principle was applied to the Lloyd District, tried to do the same kind of thing. Unfortunately they tried it in Hollywood, only it was a little too small.
EB: Well, we won't see the effects of that for several years, but it seems to me that one of the keys to that is the people that were involved in I-205, you and Doug, Ernie, Conrad, these people are not highway engineers, but all of you guys had a broad feeling about transportation and were capable in it, so I think that made a big difference, and maybe it also helped to have Glenn Jackson's support just as we got with the Harbor Drive decision.
EB: As awful as people painted him, he was a guy who used his power very, very well, I thought.
RG: Well, incredible in the sense that he was the ultimate in facilitation, didn't let ideology get in the way of facilitating, and he maintained trust and linkages with all sides. Earl and Vera and Steve in the legislature were the rabble-rousers, you know, and '75 was the worst, I think, with the timber tax and all that. So the largest 50 corporations in Oregon got together with Jack Howard, President of Lewis & Clark and sort of their conservative puppet, and it was really Harry Merlo, Georgia Pacific, Louisiana-Pacific, the timber boys were really upset, and they got the 50 largest corporations together and decided that they needed to do something about the legislature, and some of them were going to shut down for a day just to show the legislature how important it is to preserve business in the state.
They formed the Committee of Fifty, and Jackson would feed this information to Earl. It was fascinating how Jackson would work, maintaining this incredible ability of having communication linkages all over the place, and that was the philosophy he had with PacifiCorp that made him so successful is he'd never let PacifiCorp get politically out of balance. Frisbee followed that model, of making sure the Robertsons and so forth were there, you know, with McIsaac the conservative lobbyist. It was a brilliant kind of business leadership role, and that's how he worked. He had incredible linkages.
I actually met with Jackson quite a few times, different things that he needed or wanted or whatever else. He was really an incredible source of information, and willing to work with people who would work toward a solution, and that was really his criteria. Any number of those things, from helping Neil deal with the freeway transfer, in the midst of letting George Baldwin run these numbers from Salem, but agreeing to do some pretty bold stuff, like pull Region One out and have them report to him.
EB: Close down Harbor Drive. Damn few people would have been able to do it. If it hadn't been for him, I don't think Tom McCall would have ever felt he could do it.
RG: Right. And guess who negotiated the price with Union Pacific for the MAX light rail line and the Banfield? Glenn Jackson.
EB: Good guy to have on your side.
RG: Anybody else, it would take years and you'd be bloodied and wounded ...
I think the last piece of the negotiation Tuck Wilson was handling, and it was signed at midnight on Thursday night before the opening Friday morning for the Steel Bridge crossing. They literally had backup plans to stop at Lloyd Center if they couldn't get Union Pacific to agree.
EB: Meanwhile, you've built the tracks and everything; you just haven't agreed to the terms yet.
RG: To the access and the insurance. It was the Steel Bridge deal, that was the whole ...
EB: They had exactly the same problems with the Steel Bridge when they put Harbor Drive in and wanted to have access across the Steel Bridge to the interstate connection north, and so they had exactly the same problems: insurance, liability, all that sort of stuff. So maybe they learned something from that, I don't know. Probably Jackson learned don't spend any time on it, they're not going to give up.
RG: I think the price for the lost opportunity of reducing their width was $10 million, the Banfield corridor.
EB: At any rate. Well, what else have we got to talk about?
RG: Well, the only other thing really in the '70s I think was that I really loved the part about the efforts to create the downtown activity, the 24-hour city, or the Jane Jacobs model of urbanization, which to me again is kind of like the transportation approach, that sort of sophisticated level of code for first-floor retail and doors and windows, and the whole fight over separating the pedestrians, doing the skybridges, and then the Marriott Hotel decision, and the minor part that I was in was I initiated with Neil an offer to assist with legislation promoting housing development in the central city, and that's when we came up with this bill of exempting from property tax housing built within the boundaries of the central city for a period of ten years, and Mazziotti was assigned to that; I think he was the Housing Advisor or whatever, you know.
But obviously just going through that whole business of each element and pulling that element together to make it stick is huge in terms of the livability and viability today. You know, today it's an obvious concept, but in 1975 it was a whole new ground.
Actually, at that time legislature like that wasn't that hard to do because the legislature had a different attitude. There was no question there was an attitude of pride about high innovation - you know, we banned aerosol cans, along with the big ones like land use and so on, but we took on all kinds of other stuff.
EB: Like the bottle bill. That turned out to be a big success real early.
RG: Right. So there was that kind of tradition, so that the legislature - well, and I mean the rule was simple, you know, if you could get basically all the interests fairly well lined up, you didn't have much trouble going through legislature. Today, it's a random process.
Anyway, all of those things, and of course I'm still convinced that the most significant, other than the street-level emphasis that the City put in the Code, the most significant actually were the two parking garages and the short-term parking policy of the city because it dramatically changed retail activity in downtown to have the short-term parking available to shoppers.
EB: Putting that parking in place was as good a message as you could give to the downtown merchants that, you know, "We're on your side, we're not against you."
EB: But I think the other thing about it is the concept was almost perfect. It was cross-mall, and it was two parking garages and then a shopping street - it's just like a shopping center.
EB: So it made a lot of sense. I think you're right, I think that was a biggie for downtown.
RG: It was. Again the part that amazes me was the capacity to keep track of what was important. What was important were people on the streets and activity, and so the notion of whether it was a car or a bus or a pedestrian, you understood the dynamics of the activity, and that retail needed people from all modes, and the more the better. [End]