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 4,030 other subscribers

Archives

Categories

Follow me on Twitter

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 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

  • Washington Healthplanfinder Adds More In-Person Assistance Sites for 2018 Open Enrollment October 19, 2017
    Six full-service enrollment centers, seven broker affiliate sites to offer help to Washingtonians signing up for coverage  OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that 13 statewide locations will offer in-person assistance to Washington Healthplanfinder customers during the upcoming open enrollment period taking place Nov. 1, 2017-Jan. 15, 2018. These customer support […]
  • Morning Wire: McLeary, Amazon, Sound Transit October 18, 2017
    Good morning. We have some big ticket items on our radar screen: ballots, Amazon, and the Supreme Court. We detail all of those for you in this edition of the Morning Wire.  Of course, our 2017 Re-Wire Policy Conference is also on the horizon. We’re recruiting speakers and sponsors now, so if you want to […]
  • Three things to think about ahead of the next HQ2 opportunity October 18, 2017
    Proposals are due to Amazon tomorrow from cities interested in recruiting the company – and its 50,000 new jobs – to the community.  You can take a look at the 8-page guidance memo from Amazon here to see specifically the things they are looking for. In one of his only official acts during his short […]
  • 2nd Quarter Home Price Indices October 19, 2017
    Someone just paid $1.1 million for a tear-down/fixer-upper in Mountain View, California. That’s not really news, as prices in Silicon Valley have been increasingly outrageous. What’s news is that they bought the house with the provisos that the existing owner will get to live there for seven years; the buyer didn’t get to see the […]
  • Taxing and Regulating the Competition October 18, 2017
    Here’s a difference between government-run businesses and private businesses: when private businesses face competition, they are forced to innovate to survive. When government-run businesses face competition, they can regulate or tax their competitors out of business. Blackberry was once the dominant smart phone. Then came the iPhone, which reduced Blackberry subscribers from 85 million to […]
  • More Signs of the Transit Apocalypse October 17, 2017
    According to the Washingtonian, a transit advocacy group called TransitCenter “analyzed” the data and found that declining ridership on the Washington Metro system is “dragging down national ridership figures.” With the Metro’s numbers, the national total of heavy-rail riders is declining; without Metro, heavy-rail plus light-rail ridership is increasing. In other words, just give Metro […]