When Governor Jay Inslee appointed Lynn Peterson as the next WSDOT Director, urbanists and sustainable transportation advocates across the country cheered – and some dared to hope that WSDOT would scrap megaprojects like the Columbia River Crossing. But any WSDOT Secretary ultimately reports to the Governor, and indirectly to the legislature.

Between the two governors, Inslee has been the more vocal cheerleader for the CRC over the last year.  Both on the campaign trail and in recent speeches, Governor Inslee has called for building the CRC – with light rail.

The CRC proponents say that both the Oregon and Washington legislatures have to put up $250 to $450 million this year in order to secure federal funding. Although the merit of this argument is suspect, Oregon has committed their share and now the pressure is on Washington to do its part.

To kill or change the CRC Mega-Project, we’re down to perhaps two options: (1) make sure no transportation package includes funding for the CRC, and (2) reduce the dedicated funding in the transportation budget to only the project components that make sense. More after the jump.

The first is certainly plausible, if not likely. Senator King (R-Yakima), who co-chairs the transportation committee, is deeply skeptical of the project. Sources say Clark County Republicans, led by Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center), have locked-down their caucus members to vote against the CRC as well.

The Republicans oppose the CRC for two ideological reasons: they are against tolls and against light rail. This creates a seemingly impossible situation, as the CRC cannot be built without toll revenue, and Governor Inslee has established light rail as a condition of his support.

Clark County conservatives bolstered the momentum against the CRC with a recent spate of actions. The Clark County Board of Commissioners voted both to oppose the CRC and to defund its Columbia River Economic Development Council because of its support for the project. Eight Clark County Republicans sent a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard to consider a higher bridge clearance to allow taller boats underneath. And Congresswoman Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R- CD 3) has sent a flurry of letters to WSDOT and other agencies asking critical questions, and most recently organized a bi-partisan letter from members of Congress to the Coast Guard.

“Majority Coalition” leader Senator Rodney Tom has expressed support for increasing transportation revenue, but he will find it difficult to overcome this opposition. To retain power, he is dependent on the support of his fellow Republicans. So although he wants more revenue, it’s difficult to imagine that he’d sell-out his caucus by organizing the circumvention of Senator King and the Clark County Republicans.

So the cards may be stacked against the CRC, at least against funding it in a transportation revenue package.

And that’s why Democrats and business & labor interests may find a way to include funding for the CRC in the transportation budget. 

In all likelihood, they would scrape together funding across several discretionary funds — $50 million here, $50 million there, and pretty soon they’re up to $250 million without ever setting up a formal revenue source for the project. And like the Oregon legislature, the Washington legislature would defer the decision on how to raise the remaining $200 million to a future legislative session.

This would be a financial disaster.

Floating a bond that with only half a financing plan is like cooking with only half a recipe and half the ingredients but a full obligation to serve dinner. It’s a dinner that’s bound to make everyone sick — it could damage our state’s credit, and burden toll-payers and taxpayers with filling budget gaps of revenue shortfalls and project cost overruns.

We need a better plan.  If Governor Inslee really wants to make good on the CRC, then let’s focus on the project elements that are doable.

Light rail is expected to cost $856.3 million to $944.3 million. The expected revenue source for the light rail component is $850 million in federal New Starts grant support.

That’s right: we can move forward on light rail without funding any other component. That matches Governor Inslee’s values and maintains the commitment he’s made.

The rest of the project – the highway expansion and modifications to seven interchanges — is expected to cost between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion. The expected revenue sources for the highway components are:

  • $900 million to $1.3 billion from tolls
  • $450 million from Washington
  • $450 million from Oregon
  • $400 million from federal highway grant sources.

Like the SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington, the toll collection is expected to start during construction of the CRC.

The sensible thing to do would be to only move forward on tolls, which could help smooth traffic flows throughout the day on I-5 and minimize congestion without spending billions on an unnecessary mega-highway.

However, what’s sensible is not always practical.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1185, passed by voters this fall and only partially overturned by the State Supreme Court, forces the Washington legislature to set all toll rates. With Republicans’ ideological opposition to tolls, it’s hard to see how a toll-only bill could get through the legislature.

One option would be to make the tolls revenue-neutral. This is an often discussed idea for carbon taxes because of its obvious political advantage.

Instead of building more highway capacity, the toll revenue could be used to reduce property taxes in Clark County and Hayden Island and reduce the local sales tax that’s currently waged for C-Tran transit. I’d prefer it go to funding light rail operations, but this could help create support.

It seems to me that even Clark County Republicans might see the advantage of a revenue-neutral toll. But under federal rules, it’s still a long shot.

Finally, we can move forward on two inexpensive infrastructure improvements to make the bridge invulnerable to earthquakes and to reduce congestion. The estimated cost for retrofitting the existing I-5 bridges to survive for the next 2,500 years (not a typo) is $193 million. And the estimated cost to eliminate 90% of the openings of the I-5 bridges by fixing the downstream BNSF rail bridge is $100 million.

If these costs are split evenly between the federal grants and state funds, and then evenly between Oregon and Washington, the Washington legislature could allocate a mere $73 million. And if we were smart, we’d use the toll revenue to cover even this cost.


Many things could happen this legislative session. The Republicans might win out and kill the CRC Mega-Project, maybe even any transportation package. Or, the Democrats might follow Oregon’s lead and scrape together $250 million from raiding other accounts, with no plan for the rest of the bill.

Or, just maybe, Governor Inslee and Secretary Peterson could get a political win and move forward with the project elements that make sense:

  • light rail
  • revenue neutral-variable tolling
  • seismic retrofitting
  • ending 90% of the bridge openings that stop traffic on I-5

We can do all this for a mere $73 million in local funding. Even Republicans ought to be able to get behind such a cost effective option.

And think about what we could do with the remaining billions of dollars for transportation needs across the state. Even if you’re a politician or business who thinks highways are all we should spend money on, you could fix our 366 structurally deficient bridges. But whatever transportation infrastructure you want to save, restore or expand, let’s not finance the current plan for the CRC highway expansion.

52 Replies to “CRC Mega-Highway: How we can move forward, Part 3 of 3”

  1. Ben,

    The existing spans do not belong to Washington! They belong to ODOT so the Washington legislature has squat to say about tolling.

    Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians believe — incorrectly, to be sure, but they vote! — that people who live in Clark County who work in Oregon pay no income taxes on their pay. They also know — correctly — that Vancouver is a seething swamp of Portland-envy, filled with narcissistic morons from Orange County who sold out before the bust and bought sprawl McMansions with their lottery winnings.

    So if they could “just toll the bridges”, the Oregon legislature would have done so long ago. But there’s that pesky law against tolling unimproved Interstate facilities.

    1. Anandakos, can you quote that law? Because I’m pretty sure it’s just an FHWA guideline, and one they have made exceptions to in the past already.

    2. The seismic retrofitting would count as improvement to the Interstate; so tolling the bridge to cover that would be legal under federal law.

      That still requires that Oregon do the tolling since the bridges belong to Oregon.

      1. Nathanael,

        No, it would not be an increase in capacity. That would just be considered activity to maintain


        Legislation passed in 2005 known as SAFETEA-LU, encouraged states to construct new Interstate Highways through “innovative financing” methods. SAFETEA-LU facilitated states to pursue innovative financing by easing the restrictions on building interstates as toll roads, either through state agencies or through public–private partnerships. However, SAFETEA‑LU left in place a prohibition of installing tolls on existing toll-free Interstates, and states wishing to toll such routes to finance upgrades and repairs must first seek approval from Congress.


        No one said that some Washingtonians who work in Oregon do not pay Oregon income tax. I said that many Oregonians believe that we do not. Just read some of the comments on PortlandTransport. Obviously the pros who run the site know better, but it’s surprising how many of the commenters don’t.

        As to your doomsaying about moderate income Clark County residents being unable to afford to work in Oregon, I would say, “redo your math, and quit listening to Madore and the people like him.” The most likely toll scenario (1D) is is $3 each direction in the peaks. Six times 260 work days is $1,560, not “2,000 to $4,000”.

        Given that the price for a home in Vancouver is about $30,000 to $50,000 less than an equivalent home in Portland in a similar neighborhood, about half of that additional cost will be saved in mortgage cost.

        There are probably few renters in Vancouver who work in Oregon; if you’re not going to take advantage of the lower housing prices, why not live close and avoid the bridge hassles?

        I really don’t have any sympathy for the whiners in Clark County. They just want to get an auto and truck only bridge with increased capacity for their commutes paid for by somebody else.

      2. Dude. The agreement to toll the facility WOULD be part of the agreement to build the CRC.. What you quote as a prohibition on tolling is just the process by which tolls actually get implemented. And the feds are much more likely to support tolls than either of the two States..and they are already onboard.

        There is a culture of free rides and tax evasion in Clark County. I think part of the unwillingless of local residents to accept tolls is a result of this culture. But direct tolling of users is also a conservative/libertarian principle that these people tend to support, so obviously they are having a hard time dealing with this given that they are now on the receiving end of what they preach..

        And forgive me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Vancouver delegation support putting tolls, and early tolls at that, on the 520 bridge? How then are they so against tolling now?

      3. Lazarus,

        Please read the entire three post thread. Of course the new spans can be tolled; they are both a replacement of a dangerous, over-capacity facility and an increase in capacity (the HOV lanes and slip ramps). Most of the posters on STB are advocating only demand management tolling and seismic retrofits, and I’m saying that’s not legal given the current framework.

        Yes, Washington is one of the “slot” states and can toll Interstate facilities in a “pilot” demand management program, as Bernie stated. But Oregon has legal “title” to the bridges — Multnomah County paid five times what Clark County did for the original 1917 span — so it’s the Oregon legislature which would request any such demand management-only tolling. Given the general hard feelings between the Tri-Met area and Clark County, if they could do it they certainly would have done it.

        If state legislators from Clark County supported tolling on SR 520 it would probably have been those from the 49th District, but they support tolling the CRC. The opponents of tolling are from the 17th and 18th districts, and I expect that they opposed tolling on 520 as well. I’m not certain of that, but Don Benton is the sponsor of the “no tolls on anything” bill, so I doubt he wanted to toll 520. But maybe he did.

        I would be ecstatic were demand management tolling placed on both bridges if it could be done. But it can’t without an act of Congress, and I don’t think you’ll get the Republicans to go along. They love them some asphalt and concrete money (as do the Democrats for what it’s worth). All of the “exceptions” to the “no tolls on Interstates except capacity expansions or replacements” which post-date the original adoption are pre-existing facilities which were tolled by the states and were later incorporated into the Interstate system.

      4. Anandakos, what about the bridge approaches on the Washington side of the border? Those would surely be owned by WSDOT. They should be tolled southbound if only to cut down on sales tax avoidance (and demand management). The question is, is there a legal impediment to doing that?

      5. aw,

        Sure, if Interstates could be tolled, Washington could toll it’s Interstates wherever it wanted to. But current law makes that extremely difficult. And who’s to say that Washington lawmakers would support it, anyway? The Republicans control the state Senate, and they’re anti-any-kind-of-tax-or-fee.

        It doesn’t matter that it’s a “good idea” to penalize people for going to Jantzen Beach or Airport Way to buy expensive stuff. It doesn’t matter that it’s a good idea to “spread the peak” with demand management tolling. Without a replacement span, there will be no tolls on the I-5 or I-205 bridges. Since tolls need to pay for about 1/3 of the total cost and Clark County commuters will pay the vast majority of those tolls, if there is to be a new bridge Clark County commuters will pay a fairly steep price for it.

        The “Loot Rail”/”Crime Train” crowd in Clark County clearly have the upper hand. They’re demanding an autos and trucks only facility and they largely have the state Senate in their camp. Not that it’ll mean that we won’t be paying a toll if a new rubber tires only bridge is built — there’s no way that the $800 million expected for Light Rail will be re-directed to the roadway structure, so I’m not sure what the hoo-hah is except that they hate dark skinned people. It really doesn’t change the net price to the states to include or exclude the LRT facility since the New Starts grant includes the extra price for the lower deck. [ed. note: the elimination of the lower deck does mitigate the clearance problem by about twenty feet.] That assumes of course that the “expected” funding arrives, which is not a slam-dunk with Paul Ryan writing budgets.

        But anyway, the Washington Senate is going to want an auto/truck only project. And, Ben, you can just forget about Jay Inslee making them change their mind. They’ll make him change his.

        So, the real question is whether Oregon — particularly Portland — will back down on its demand that any bridge include Light Rail. Portland claims that it will not allow all the extra cars that will arrive over the new bridge — and they will arrive over the new bridge because overall speeds will be higher and there will be at least one new through lane (the HOV), a “Jantzen Beach only” lane and one for Marine Drive “only”. Since Marine Drive can absorb a full lane of traffic all the way to Columbia Way and thereby distribute it over several routes through northeast Portland, that lane will essentially be another general traffic lane.

        If Oregon stands firm by revoking its contribution to the plan and forcing Washington to cave and agree to the full design, then maybe the project as now envisioned will survive. If not nothing will happen except another decade of recriminations and lost opportunities while the two states yell at each other.

        Oh, an by the way, even though I’d personally love to be able to catch the Max here in Clark County, as a believer in efficient transit I still think this is a boondoggle. Nothing happening is better than spending $800 million for a system that carries a couple of thousand people each peak and a few hundred during the rest of the day. That is well within the capacity and optimal service level for buses. Plus, if the Yahoos realize they’re not gonna’ get their shiny new free passage bridge, maybe they’ll get serious about expanding the C-Tran expresses to a wider selection of destinations in Oregon.

      6. I’m right, you’re wrong, Anandakos.

        Title 23, chapter 1, section 129, subsection (a)(1)(C):

        ” reconstruction or replacement of a toll-free bridge or
        tunnel and conversion of the bridge or tunnel to a toll

        Seismic retrofitting is reconstruction.

        The toll revenue would be required to be used first for debt service and then for operations and maintenance.

      7. Nathanael,

        OK, then. You can have — what is it that everyone has been crowing about? — $150 million in tolls to reconstruct the bridge pilings and whatnot.

        But then you have to stop the tolling after the bonds are paid off. It’s still not going to get you what you want (and believe it or not, what I want, too): tolling which is specifically for demand management and no capital development purpose. Especially you will not get demand management tolling in which the toll revenues go to subsidize transit — a la Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

        It would be unmitigatedly great if you could, but neither legislature, nor Congress, is going to approve it.

    3. Some statements that have advanced are not corrected.
      1. The I-5 Bridges are jointly owned by both States.
      2. All Washingtonians who work in Oregon, Pay Oregon Income Tax.
      3. 70% of the Washingtonians who are part of the 60,000-plus commuters earn less then $40,000 in annual family income. With between $2,000 and $4,000 in annualized tolls these families will not be able to afford to live in Washington and work in Oregon.

      1. And if some of these families decide to move to Oregon closer to work, to avoid the tolls, how is this a bad thing?

      2. I doubt very much if ALL Washingtonians working in Oregon pay income taxes, because I’m betting that not all work is above boards.. And certainly a lot of Clark County residents cross the bridge just to shop and avoid sales taxes. In that way tolls actually could be an economic stimulus for Clark County as some of those shopping dollars would now be spent on the north side of the river.

        So ya, toll the bridge as an economic stimulus for Clark County (and lord knows they need it)

  2. I love trains and light rail (and use it all the time), but if we’re talking about spending nearly a billion dollars to get light rail across the Columbia, shouldn’t Washington also be willing to fix their land use policies to slow or stop the residential development happening so far out in once rural Clark County that those people can’t possibly take transit?


    Otherwise, the real “benefit” of light rail to Vancouver would be getting close-in commuters off the freeway to make freeway commuting from beyond Battleground easier.

    1. Of course. They should absolutely be reducing sprawl. The only way that’s going to happen is with organization there.

      But there’s no park and ride funded as part of the light rail (that I’m aware of), so it’ll have next to no impact on sprawl. It will, however, put feet on the street around the stations. :)

    2. @Ben – Then what’s this huge parking garage planned in downtown Vancouver that I’ve been hearing about? Is it just funded out of a different pocket?

      1. William,

        Yes, three parking garages are part of the LRT plan. The papa bear garage you’re thinking of is the one next to the freeway at McLaughlin, by Clark College. Then there’s the baby bear one planned for 13th to 14th on Washington; not sure what that’s for, in all honesty. I guess so people can drive from inner Vancouver instead of taking a local bus.

        The third one is to be right by the ramp up to the bridge and will serve traffic from SR14. It’s the mama bear garage.

  3. None of the commenters seem to have noticed that (A) the New Starts grant pays for the light rail bridge, so beyond operating costs, it costs nothing to Portland, Vancouver, Oregon, or Washington, and (B) Ben’s proposal to make the tolling revenue neutral. I’d love for more people to comment on these two aspects.

    1. The current CRC bridge design is double-deck with light rail and ped/bikeway on lower levels. In 2008, single-deck bridge designs were favored with a separate LRT/ped/bikeway bridge 3-lanes wide that had to ‘pair’ with the southbound single-deck bridge of 5-lanes. CRC commission lead agency Wsdot nixed single-deck designs despite the navigation river clearance requirement. Single-deck bridges add 30′ clearance which exceeds the Coast Guard mandate of 125′ clearance plus 15′ to reach 140′.

      Adding a lift span on the BNSF RR bridge should be a project requirement, but majority stockholder Warren Buffett expects to pile on even more wealth importing Japanese/Korean disposable cars by paving West Hayden Island natural habitat for a new marine terminal there. Three birds with one stone: 1) Car import death, 2) Railway chokepoint impediment to passenger-rail service, and 3) killing birds.

      [Ad hom]

  4. A few corrections: 1. SAFETEA-LU has expired and now MAP-21 now controls. So you should cite MAP-21.
    2. Whoever owns the bridges doesnt matter. The two states now how have an operating agreement on a process to jointly decide the toll rates (although now the Washington legislature has to approve it too).
    3. Federal approval for deman-only tolls would be difficult. It’d be interesting to see the fed’s response to revenue neutral tolls, which ostensibly wouldn’t increase the tax burden.

    1. Brock,

      According to Wikipedia (the only source I have since I don’t know the Federal Register), MAP-21 essentially extended the SAFETEA-LU language on tolling. That’s why the quote was from the earlier statute.

      And “revenue neutral” tolls wouldn’t be revenue neutral to the toll payers without some special legislation applicable only to Clark and perhaps Cowlitz counties rebating the toll collections to the counties. The umpty-thousand other counties in the US who might like to trade tolls for property tax rebates — in order to shift the burden to renters and passers through — would say “me too or NOT THEM!”. It would be a circus.

      1. Just grab the US code; Title 23 is codified into positive law, so you can just read the text of title 23.

        It’s not like Indian law, which isn’t codified, and where parts of it contradict treaties, and where large portions depend on weird administrative and court rulings in the past, where you have to dig up all the original sources *and* court rulings to even begin to get a clue what’s going on.

  5. It will be interesting to see how STB plays the next time Clark and Spokane Counties gang up to kill Seattle’ next Mega-Project.
    I think we still have bragging rights in that department of building really grand schemes on a shoestring budget with iffy justification.

    1. ^Oh, and who realized that?

      They’re opposed to the CRC for the wrong reasons. They’re still terrible on transportation issues. Acknowledging that many Democratic politicians aren’t perfect transportation-wise is completely different than what you’re saying.

    2. When Republicans start opposing road expansion projects for fiscal reasons, I’ll realize they are not the enemy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe for a second that’s whats going on here. By and large, Republicans are simply for a different kind of big government than the Democrats. Big roads, big subsides to fossil fuel companies, and big defense spending. Democrats have their issues too but at least they are, by and large, more honest about their desire to expand government and how they will pay for it.

    3. Republicans have believed and still believe, by and large, that a penny spent on transit is a penny too much.

      This is exactly what’s happening here. Work with them, and the 22 lanes of highway will stay – only the light rail – which is largely funded not by bus, but by the feds – will go.

      1. That’s a fair criticism. But I think it’s also true that transit projects seem to be blindly supported (by and large by Democrats) with out any real justification. The CRC light rail is a prime example. Nobody would do this with local or State money. It’s a distortion of Federal tax dollars which we remit and are then put into a competition for the least crazy idea. Really, think about it. Would you want your taxes to go up to support a shining new light rail system for the fine citizens of Fort Vancouver who have pretty much said they ain’t going to use it; no way no how.

      2. Bernie, anyone in their right mind would extend light rail across the Columbia with, well, Clark County money. Rail is great for dealing with transportation bottlenecks; crossing the Columbia is such a bottleneck; it doesn’t help the Oregon side to have people cross; so it is the sort of thing the Washington side should be lining up to pay for.

        But Clark County ain’t in its right mind, so….

      3. Nathanael,

        If the south end of the Yellow Line had capacity to burn it might make sense to spend $800 million to cross the river (and build the garages in Vancouver). But it doesn’t. The Steel Bridge is a bottleneck that isn’t going away for quite a while, if ever. It can handle six or seven additional trains per hour during the peak, and the Yellow Line ain’t gonna get all of them. Maybe three. At two cars per train and 200 people per car — pretty well packed, but not Tokyo style — that’s 1,200 additional riders per peak hour who can cross the river, plus any “spare” capacity at Interstate/Rose Quarter below that 200 riders per car figure on the existing trains. And that assumes no increase in ridership from the gentrifying Interstate Avenue corridor, which is a stretch.

        If there were dry land between the Expo Center and Clark College, well hell yes build LRT! I’m sure more people would ride it than travel all the way to Clackamas Town Center. But there’s not dry land; there’s that forty foot deep river. Whether you build a separate span or expand the proposed highway replacement, it’s going to cost somewhere on the order of three quarters of a billion dollars to get Max across the river.

        If there is no highway replacement, the entire cost of the bridge structure has to be paid from transit sources. If the LRT structure is included in a new highway bridge it either has to be considerably wider or double-decked. Wider would be cheaper and solve some of the clearance problems, but the grade for the LRT vehicles and bicycles would be considerably steeper and wider is more of an eyesore from Hayden Island and downtown Vancouver.

        It doesn’t matter that the structure and the trains will be paid out of Federal Transit funds. It’s still a hell of a lot of money for a total daily ridership which might make it to 5,000 passengers per day. And it still has to come from taxpayers who are stubborn these days and have other priorities. The Second Avenue subway in New York City would carry an order or magnitude more people than Max to Vancouver, and three quarters of a billion dollars would get it at least one more station up the island.

        It’d be great for downtown Vancouver for Max to come over, no doubt about it. The fools in Clark County hate the thought for all the wrong reasons, and they’ll be surprised at how much it does for the downtown area, should it come. But it’s still a boondoggle because of that river.

        And just for clarity, it does help Portland to have folks cross from Clark County. They mostly cross to work, shop or attend events, all of which generate economic value.

        Of course Portland suffers environmental damage and congestion at the same time caused by the folks who drive, which is why the city should fight as hard as it can to convince the Oregon Legislature to drop the state’s support for the project. That would stop it. And anyway, why does Oregon even want to provide a better pathway for trucks traveling between Washington and California. Not much in it for them.

      4. Clarification.

        that’s 1,200 additional riders per peak hour in the peak direction who can cross the river

        The off-peak direction ridership is trivial and will always remain so. What little employment there is in Clark County that attracts folks from Oregon is not in downtown Vancouver, and won’t be. It’s mostly over on the east side of town.


        Why don’t they move here and stop paying income tax?????? I guess they don’t expect the work to be permanent.

  6. The estimated cost for retrofitting the existing I-5 bridges to survive for the next 2,500 years (not a typo) is $193 million.

    Come on Ben, that’s total bullshit… And you had such a good post going. Bridges are designed in this State to last 75 years. Maybe the Romans built bridges to last for several millennium but we don’t. That quoted but unsupported with any a actual bid numbers is for seismic retrofits which don’t address the real underlying structural issues with the bridges. I’d like to support your position that this mega-highway project is out of scale with reality but when you go off the deep end with crap like this…

    1. Agreed, Bernie. How on earth are you going to “retrofit” timber bridge piles? By the way, What kind of RISK will be associated with the retrofit? Please quote your source on this $193 million retrofit project.

      Notice, on my previous rebuttals to your posts, Ben, I provided sources. I’d expect the same from you. You have to retrofit this bridge under LIVE traffic.

      A recent bridge retrofit in Seattle on the Aurora Bridge (replacing elastometric bearing pads, expansion joints and some more seismic retrofitting). The cost of construction was $5.7 million, but the project created a mess of traffic and involved a bridge with less issues.
      Aurora Bridge Seismic Retrofit

      CRC would deal with 1,800 timber pilings according to the CRC Chapter 2 (See Page 2-46).
      CRC Final Enviro Impact Statement (Chapter 2)

      With the aging trunnions handling the lift spans, as mentioned in my prior post in part 2, these would most likely be replaced with new trunnions and components/hardware. This too isn’t cheap. ITS, signal and electrical upgrades would be needed, and these are all parts of the transportation arena. Before you know it, your $193 million estimate has been knocked out of the ballpark. ….and we still don’t know if the retrofit will UNDERMINE the existing structure. The existing bridges are part of the vital corridor. With a sufficiency rating of 18 according to ODOT, the Interstate bridges need to be replaced.

      1. HOLD UP!!

        You’re telling me that you want Oregon and Washington to use an alternative reincarnated from a 1995 seismic study? The 2006 estimate isn’t valid due to the recent increases in concrete, environmental mitigation costs, etc. Use WSDOT’s Unit Bid Analysis to see what I am talking about. This information is seven years old and based on an investigation from nearly 20 years ago.

      2. And again, designing for a 2500-year return period is not the same as designing for a 2500-year lifespan. The 2500-year event could happen next year, or the one after, with an average probability of 1/2500 per year. Work out the math, and a 2500-year event has a 2% chance of occurring in the next 50 years.

        In short, designing for long return period events is more about reducing the risk in the short (50-100 year) term rather than designing for a very long lifespan.

  7. Here’s an Oregon Democrat noting that the environmental and neighborhood organizations in Oregon do NOT support this project, despite the light rail component. We know that I-5 is already jammed with traffic, and that, with the CRC the bottleneck at the bridge going south will only move two miles to Delta Park where six lanes (five coming across the new bridge and one off Marine Drive) will narrow to three lanes, creating a massive traffic jam every workday morning. We know that the ridiculous number of lanes, ramps, approaches, exits and entrances of the CRC (about $2 billion worth) will only jam traffic faster onto an already congested I-5. We know that the light rail for Vancouver only extends the Yellow Line, which will have ten stops between the closest of three Vancouver stations and Downtown Portland, making the trip a 38 minute trip from this closest station, as trains on the Yellow Line run at an average speed of 13 miles an hour including stops. We know that 3,000 parking spaces built in three new garages at the three Vancouver light rail stations will sit largely empty, but will cost us all $167 million. We know the projection in the EIS of 37% of the trips across the Columbia being on light rail in 2030 is ludicrous. We know that the plans only to toll I-5 and leave I-205 un-tolled will mean a large diversion of traffic to the Glenn Jackson Bridge, the only other highway crossing of the Columbia in the region. This will mean exits and entrances to I-205 near the Glenn Jackson will become even more jammed than they are today, and that traffic will increase on the jammed Banfield freeway, and on NE Portland arterials as well. We know about the $100 million plus of pork for Tri-Met and others outside of the I-5 corridor hidden in the huge project’s mega-budget.
    We know the false representations in the CRC job projections are not based on economic reality, such as the 69 businesses doing $100 million of busines a year and employing 916 people that will be taken by this project, according to the CRC EIS, not counting the job loss at the old Kaiser Shipyards, or the impact of construction in Vancouver and on Hayden Island.
    In short, ANYONE who looks closely at this CRC project, whether conservative Republican or liberal Democrat, can see right through the mendacity and the hype that have carried this project forward.
    Ann Rivers, Don Benton, Bill Turlay, Tom Mielke, Jeanne Stewart, David Madore — these conservative Republicans are OUR HEROES in stopping this project, particularly Ann Rivers, the Senate majority whip. The triggers in the Oregon Legislature’s HB 2800 authorizing $450 million in bonding were built into it by liberal Democrats here. One of the triggers requires Washington to approve funding by September of 2013. If it doesn’t happen by the end of the Washington` April 28 session, the project should die a death, beneficial to all.
    In our opinion, we need an open, honest, bi-state process that designs and selects a new phased project that we can afford, that doesn’t require massive 45-year tolling, that reduces the lifts that happen now on I-5 by fixing the railroad bridge, fixes the safety problems at the entrances to I-5 closest to the river, and provides MULTIPLE NEW BRIDGES across the mighty Columbia that do not restrict river traffic and carry freight rail, transit, bicycles and pedestrians as well as autos and trucks. We hope Clark County conservatives will join us in good will in designing and funding this rational approach, built on common sense and the public interest, not on politics, hype and mendacity, all designed to serve greedy special interests who would benefit from the CRC, not taxpayers and voters.

    1. Sounds like you guys should build the light rail component and seismically retrofit. :)

    2. You are right in the first couple of paragraphs, Ron. The bridge as designed will result in two full lanes of additional traffic capacity: the HOV lane and the “Marine Drive only” lane. Since Marine Drive/MLK can easily distribute one full freeway lane over several routes through north Portland, the city will have to suffer from the increased congestion.

      asdf is correct: if you dance with the devil you will get singed and contract a mighty dose of the clap. These “conservative” Republicans from Clark County don’t want a “phased project that we can afford”. They want exactly what the narcissistic Orange county escapees spread all over east Clark County want: the Federal government and the two states to pay for a brand shiny new free bridge for them to commute on. If you don’t understand that Don Benton has a nice, pink down blankey in the pocket of some concrete lobbyist that he snuggles up in at night, you are fooling yourself.

      Finally, it appears that you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid of this “multiple bridges” fantasy. Where are you going to put more bridges that have arterial connections on both sides of the river? Are you advocating for the Great Wall of Vancouver leading to a bridge alongside the rail span? That one’s popular but requires ringing downtown Vancouver in concrete, just as was sadly done to Portland (only without the trenches; think 14th Avenue around Quimby…)

      What’s worse, it leads to the same three exits from the riverfront that I-5 does: I-5 on to downtown and points south, MLK to northeast Portland and North Portland Road to…. well, it goes somewhere over toward Forest Park. Only this efficient by-pass has a two mile detour for the two exits with reasonable capacity.

      Then there are the upstream ideas. The one that would connect 42nd Avenue in Portland to Andresen in Vancouver is quaint and picturesque. But oops! there are those pesky planes just 150 feet in the air there. Oh well…..

      But my favorite is the Camas to Troutdale idea. If there’s anything that screams “sprawl magnet” that would be it. North of Camas is mostly ag land today, but if there were a way across the river there, it would fill up in the blink of an eye.

      So, I hope that the stalemate in Olympia means that the Washington Leg will run out the clock, and the whole thing will collapse into a stinking pile. But don’t bet on it. Both sides want the bridge; they just want it to look differently when it’s completed.

      1. Amandakos,

        The most recent MAX subway design is for ‘1 mile’ between a NE 6th portal, under the Willamette and Naito Pkwy to a portal beneath the Morrison Bridge on 1st Ave. Convention Center & Rose Quarter stations are combined spaciously underground; Saturday Market and Forestry Bldg stops are replaced with subway stations. This shaves 5 minutes trip time off this stretch and leaves the Yellow and Milwaukee MAX Orange lines on the transit mall and Steel Bridge. This is the least cost subway proposal.

        CRC commission leader Wsdot nixed 2008 single-deck CRC bridge designs for double-deck designs knowing they waste time and lead to the expulsion of light rail from the project.
        [Ad hom]

      2. Wells,

        If Tri-Met is seriously considering such a subway, then the capacity problems which make the Yellow Line to expensive per possible passenger do go away. However, I’ve not read of any political leader with practical authority proposing or supporting such a subway.

        And I didn’t advocate a single deck bridge. I merely pointed out that it would be wider (and therefore more of a visual intrusion) but that it would ameliorate the clearance problems. You have a tendency to assume that only you are the only “neutral” and unbiased authority on these sorts of topics and that everyone else is either stupid, ill-informed or craven.

  8. Wait a couple of years and take the tunnel machine from seattle and bore an “express” tunnel from the free way at mill plain to the free way at lombard…. Bertha should get to work on more than one project….

    1. Not a bad idea, but it doesn’t need to be so long. Marine Drive would be perfectly acceptable for a south portal.

      However…Bertha can’t do the job. She’s train sized. A pair of tunnels for the CRC would each have to be DBT sized, but with both decks headed the same direction. The upper could be the HOV and SR14 connections and the lower the “through” traffic. It could work.

      1. An I-5 tunnel under the Columbia River makes no sense whatsoever. The most logical replacement bridge is single-deck, not double-deck. in 2010, ODOT finished its fine design for replacing the horrible Marine Drive interchange plus a fine option for off-island access to Hayden Island – Concept #1 – whereby NO RAMPS directly at I-5 are required.

      2. Wells,

        Why not? Sure, it’s more expensive and therefore was rejected. But I’m wondering what other “makes no sense” you mean. I think it would make a lot of esthetic sense, in that downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island wouldn’t have to absorb the permanent impacts of the huge project, which will be an eyesore whatever the final design. And a single-deck bridge would be even more of an eyesore than a double decker, though it would go along way toward solve the clearance problems.

        The best thing about a tunnel would have been the removal of freeway access from the north to Hayden Island. Now I’m sure that the owners of the Jantzen Beach mall don’t agree, but so what if people have to get exit after the tunnel portal and double back to the island. It’s not that different from the maneuvers necessary to visit Ikea at Cascades Station.

      3. What i had in mind when i posted this was for thr current bridge to be brought up to siesmic standards and have a the tunnel be made to provide an express bypass so none of the interchanges would need to be upgraded…. Also the light rail bridge and fixing the heavy rail bridge should be done as well…

      4. If we’re going to spend buckets of money this seems like a real solution. Love it.
        Retrofit the original bridges,
        add the elevator lift to the railway bridge to straighten out the marine traffic,
        then rent Bertha and put an express tunnel through, that reverses direction similar to the I-5 north of Seattle.

        A third bridge for local traffic that runs parallel to the railway bridge would be nice for the pedestrians, bicycle traffic and move some of the local traffic and buses off of the freeway.

        As for light-rail…. link the Vancouver Amtrak station with the Portland Union station, use the Amtrak right of way. Give the (60,000)Southwest Washington Oregon Income tax payers($200million) a 10 minute commute. And in my dream land we could phase in an expansion that would stretch it out to Ridgefield, Longview, Centralia and Olympia: a real high speed rapid transit capable of more than 100mph, not the silly toytown Max system.

        Riding the Max from the Expo center is enough to make you want to end your life.. the C-tran commuter buses are magnificent, 20 minutes to downtown.. pure luxury, my average ride time from the expo center is 45 minutes !!! I can’t imagine they’ll manage to drag the damn snail to Vancouver in less than 15 minutes, so in reality you’ll be looking at an hour commute, nobody in their right mind is going to get out of their car for that kind of commuting time. I can cycle it in 40 minutes. (shakes head) Love the article.

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