Telling the stories that the mainstream media no longer tell.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 13 other subscribers

Archives

Categories

Follow me on Twitter

March 2015
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

$3.4-billion bridge project so far fails to clear opposition, political wrangling « Watchdog.org

OVER TROUBLED WATERS? Both Washington and Oregon state legislatures are considering spending $450 million to replace the I-5 bridge from Portland to Vancouver

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

SALEM — Washington and Oregon would pay as much as $450 million apiece for a massive bridge and light rail project connecting Portland, Ore., to Vancouver, Wash.

The $3.4 billion bridge project, however, is cluttered with opposition piled on top of support underneath a heap of political deals and disagreements, all at a time when the states are struggling with burdensome debt loads.

It’s a veritable quagmire of controversy, but the respective state governments are pushing forward, nevertheless.

Expect a border war.

Also known as the Columbia River Crossing, the bridge would replace the Interstate 5 bridge, improve interchanges and extend light rail service 2.9 miles from Portland to Vancouver.

Opponents and proponents of the project flooded the Oregon Capitol on Monday for a nearly five-hour public meeting, a foreshadowing of events surely to come.

RIVERS: Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers

Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said the political landscape in Washington is more “restrictive” than Oregon, and that the uphill fight might be even steeper there.

“It’s kind of interesting how never the twain shall meet, almost,” she said. “We’re really going to get to find out just how badly Oregon wants a bridge.”

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, supports the project, testifying at the hearing and calling on the Legislature to act quickly to secure the federal money, which, he says, will be available only if the state acts this session — probably by March.

Oregon is looking to leverage bonds to pay for the bridge, which would become a toll road. Oregon Transportation Commission chairman Pat Egan said he estimates that would cost $27 million a year for 30 years.

But there’s no new revenue steam to pay for it, at least not yet. Opposition to the project comes from all sides of the political spectrum in Oregon — from liberal environmentalists who fear the bridge is an expanded highway project to conservatives who don’t like the hefty price tag or the rail component. The proposed height of the bridge, which would limit some vessels from clearing the structure and possibly affect some jobs, is also a major area of contention.

BRIDGE TOO FAR? Also known as the Columbia River Crossing, the bridge would replace the Interstate 5 bridge, improve interchanges and extend light rail service 2.9 miles from Portland to Vancouver.

Supporters say the current bridge is a safety hazard in terms of traffic accidents and congestion and is sorely in need of seismic upgrades. Residents of Hayden Island testified Monday they have already waited too long for an upgrade to their one way on and off their floating homes on the Columbia River.

While Oregon mulls proposed legislation to fund the project — another hearing is expected for Monday in Salem — Rivers and Washington state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouverare pushing a measure that would prohibit funding of the bridge project if it includes light rail.

“This is not a bridge-replacement project,” Rivers argues. “This is a light rail project with a bridge thrown in.”

State Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, who co-chairs the Senate Transportation committee, sent a letter to the governor requesting a new plan for the project — removing light rail and including a redesign.

But there’s strong support in Washington, too. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has also given the project a thumbs up, and House Democrats from the Vancouver area are pushing him to fast track it.

Rivers questions whether Inslee, new to the office, knows the whole story.

“I do not believe that he’s fully apprised of the project. I don’t think he really gets everything with this project,” Rivers said.

Here are the biggest roadblocks, so far:

Light rail: Critics argue the light rail component of the project, which seeks $850 million from the Federal Transit Authority, is unwanted by many and, simply a waste of money. They say the train would be slower than the express buses that already traverse I-5.

“They’re not going to take the slow choo choo,” John Charles, president and CEO of free market think tank Cascade Policy Institute, told Northwest Watchdog in an earlier interview. He said the Portland metro area is a choice transportation market, meaning people have travel options. If the train takes 38 minutes and the buses take less than half that time, well, they’ll do the math.

“To me that should have been a deal breaker a long time ago,” he said.

Mitigation costs/height: The bridge is planned to be 116 feet and awaits U.S. Coast Guard approval. Egan said Monday the state is looking to mitigate “four affected users,” meaning some vessels won’t be able to clear the bridge. Officials with Greenberry Industrial testified that jobs would be lost if the bridge is built to that height.

“His mitigation costs won’t be cheap,” state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin, tweeted from her seat on the committee panel during the testimony.

It’s unclear how much it will cost the state to mitigate these companies. Egan is expected to bring more information about the financial impact to the committee next week.

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org, and follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.

$3.4-billion bridge project so far fails to clear opposition, political wrangling « Watchdog.org.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Similar posts

This site sponsored by:

YOU! Your message could reach thousands of online consumers. Click CONTACT to inquire about advertising rates.

Paid advertisement

  • Nearly All States Allow Religious Exemptions for Vaccines March 2, 2015
    Forty-seven states allow children to be exempt from vaccinations because of religious concerns, including 18 states that also allow exemptions for “personal reasons,” according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. One state, Minnesota, allows parents to not vaccinate their children based on a broader “personal” exemption that does not explicitly mention religion. The post Nearly […]
  • The Six Words that Might Determine the Fate of Obamacare before the Supreme Court March 2, 2015
    When the Supreme Court takes up the latest challenge to President Obama’s health-care law this week, how the justices interpret a six-word phrase in the bill could determine its fate.  The law, adopted in 2010, says the federal government can pay subsidies to help people afford insurance bought through “an Exchange established by the state.” […]
  • The Napa Valley of Marijuana? Slow Start to Pot Tourism in Washington March 2, 2015
    Since legalization, this state’s pot industry has dreamed of vineyard-like tours at pot farms in the rolling hills of Eastern Washington and cannabis lounges where visitors and locals commune over marijuana vapor wafting through the air. But hotels have been hesitant to tout themselves as pot-friendly, visitors have few legal locations to consume and only a […]
  • Top International Stories to Watch Today: Lithuania, Nigeria & Argentina February 27, 2015
    1) Due to fears of Russian aggression, Lithuania has reinstated compulsory military conscription. The Baltic region of Europe that borders Russia has placed a new priority on strengthening their military. The draft previously ended in 2008.   On Friday, Russia held military exercises just on the other side of the Estonian border. While both Estonia and […]
  • Top International Stories to Watch Today: Syria, Afghanistan, & Ukraine February 26, 2015
    1) More than 220 Assyrian have been abducted by ISIS, an airstrike campaign has started in the region. (Also, we now know who Jihadi John is.)   2) A car full of explosives ran into a NATO convoy in Afghanistan, targeting the Turkish envoy, at least one Turkish soldier died.   3) The United Kingdom will […]
  • World Class Hour on #FTRRadio with @astaroska! February 25, 2015
    Guest: Andrew Staroska   Nuclear Iran https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8VuxcQxXgg Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Geneva this weekend to continue on-going nuclear negotiations. The Israeli government has expressed concerns over the talks, so U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice has invited her Israeli counterpart to the White House to […]
  • Arming Ukraine: Where the 2016 Hopefuls Stand March 2, 2015
    Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire agreement reached earlier this month by European negotiators. While Russian-backed separatists began to pull back some heavy weapons from the front lines on Tuesday as part of the deal, Ukraine says the rebels are still initiating attacks. Ukrainian forces retreated from the strategic rail hub Debaltseve last […]
  • Russian Media Reports Suggest Variety of Responses to Murder of Boris Nemtsov March 2, 2015
    Kremlin-aligned media outlets were quick to deflect blame for the murder of Boris Nemtsov, a leading figure in the Russian opposition, from Vladimir Putin and his allies, claiming that killing Nemtsov does not benefit Putin and presenting other possible alternative explanations for the murder.
  • NATO Commander Urges Pressure on Moscow Over Missile Treaty Breach March 2, 2015
    The commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO is calling for pressuring Russia against deploying new cruise missiles that violate the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty.
  • Back in the Air Again March 2, 2015
    The Antiplanner is in Washington DC today to participate in a debate over the Purple light-rail line–or, as I like to call it, the Purple Money Eater. In conjunction with this debate, the Maryland Public Policy Institute will release a detailed critique of the proposed low-capacity transit line; Antiplanner readers can download a preview today. […]
  • Will Apple Join the Self-Driving Car Race? February 27, 2015
    Apple is planning to put an electric car on the market by 2020. No, Apple is planning to build a self-driving car. No, it’s not. It would be stupid to do so. Rumors about Apple, which has the highest market capitalization of any company in the world, are an industry in itself, so the rumor […]
  • Faster, Cheaper, Safer, More Convenient February 26, 2015
    Smallter Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper, by the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce, argues that human innovation will save the planet from climate change and other projected catastrophes. As the title suggests, most of that innovation has to do with making things smaller, faster, etc., but Bryce especially focuses on power density, that is, the amount of […]