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 15 other subscribers

Archives

Categories

Follow me on Twitter

August 2015
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

$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 State Wire Vacation Time August 12, 2015
    The Washington State Wire will be taking a vacation until the first week in September. Join us then for more original reporting and links to other top articles. The post Washington State Wire Vacation Time appeared first on Washington State Wire.
  • Vying for Governor, Bill Bryant Seeks to Expand His Brand August 11, 2015
    As a Port of Seattle commissioner, Bryant is well known in Westside business and industrial circles, and better known in Eastern Washington’s agricultural world. It’s everyone else that needs an introduction, he says, if he’s to convince them he’s their choice in the 2016 gubernatorial election. The post Vying for Governor, Bill Bryant Seeks to […]
  • Washington State Can Lead on Global Warming and Clean Energy August 11, 2015
    Washingtonians demand urgent action on climate. If our elected leaders won’t lead us forward, then the people will. The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy is Washington state’s coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to reducing global-warming pollution and strengthening our economy. The post Washington State Can Lead on Global Warming and Clean Energy […]
  • Today’s Top 3 International Headlines: Syria, Lebanon & North Korea August 25, 2015
    1) In the past 10 days, the Syrian military has killed 247 people in the Damascus area. At least 50 of these deaths were children. Most of the airstrikes were concentrated in rebel-held Douma. The Civil Defense, a rescue operation, has declared the city a disaster area.   2) Lebanon’s government held an emergency cabinet […]
  • Today’s Top 3 International Headlines: Lebanon, Syria & Belarus August 24, 2015
    1) Protests in Lebanon over the country’s failure to collect garbage turned violent on the second day. The problem with trash in Lebanon is a symptom of deeper political problems in the country that have angered citizens: including corruption, sectarian gridlock and issues with Syrian refugees. Sunday night, the army and riot police used waters cannons, […]
  • Today’s Top 3 International Stories: Macedonia, Israel & Pakistan August 21, 2015
    1) Thousands of refugees camped on the border Greece, hoping to pass through Macedonia. Police claimed the border was closed and when the migrants attempted to rush across Macedonia called for a state of emergency. Riot police moved into the area using batons, stun guns and tear gas on the refugees. The UN expressed concern over […]