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Salem Watch: CRC could get vote in House committee Monday

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 24th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

"The BTA is concerned about the cost of the CRC... Though this bill does not have a fiscal statement the bridge itself puts the State of Oregon on the hook for at least $400 million dollars."
— Gerik Kransky, BTA

Oregon lawmakers will weigh in on the controversial Columbia River Crossing project this Monday when House Joint Memorial 22 (text) gets a public hearing and possible vote in the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee.

HJM 22 is a pro-CRC statement that, "urges the federal government" to fund the project. If passed, it would send a strong message that Oregon is behind the project and a copy of the statement would go to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner, every member of the Oregon Congressional Delegation and to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

Here's an excerpt from the text of HJM 22:

... Whereas the Columbia River Crossing Project is a long-term, comprehensive solution to address major issues concerning public safety, quality of life and economic vitality along five miles of Interstate 5 between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, issues that have significance for the region and for the State of
Oregon; and...

Whereas the Columbia River Crossing Project, a project of national significance that will expand the capacity of the
Interstate 5 bridges between Oregon and Washington, is a crucial transportation project; and...

Whereas the Project Sponsors Council in August 2010 unanimously recommended to the Governors of Oregon and Washington to move ahead with the development and construction of a new 10-lane multimodal Interstate 5 bridge that will include light rail, improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities and improvements to seven interchanges in the five-mile impact area...

The text doesn't include any estimate on the project's total cost, which project staff say could be $3.8 billion, but others estimate it could be as much as $10 billion. Oregon's share of the cost is estimated at $400 million. Recent reports have shown that Oregon and Washington have already spent over $120 million on planning costs thus far. (For more on the cost and other questions about the project, watch citizen activist Spencer Boomhower's latest video.)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) says they are concerned about the bill. Reached by email today, BTA Advocacy Manager Gerik Kransky said,

"The BTA is concerned about the cost of the CRC and the inadequate design of the current proposal [read more about BTA's position in their March 7th letter to Governor Kitzhaber (PDF)]. Though this bill does not have a fiscal statement the bridge itself puts the State of Oregon on the hook for at least $400 million dollars."

Sponsors of HJM 22 include Representatives Tina Kotek (D-Portland), Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) and Senators Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) and Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point).

If HJM 22 passes, it could give CRC proponents a major vote of confidence and it would position the project much more favorably for essential federal funding.

The hearing is scheduled for this Monday (3/28) at 1:00 pm in Hearing Room D. Learn more about HJM 22 here.

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  • Evan Manvel March 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    To contact committee members via email:

    rep.cliffbentz@state.or.us
    rep.tobiasread@state.or.us
    rep.terrybeyer@state.or.us
    rep.patricksheehan@state.or.us
    rep.shawnlindsay@state.or.us
    rep.nancynathanson@state.or.us
    rep.jeffersonsmith@state.or.us
    rep.jimweidner@state.or.us

    Key things to remember:
    - Be respectful
    - Mention the bill number
    - Make one-three key points
    - If you're a constituent, mention it. If not, you'll still be on the hook for the CRC costs (and its impacts) and are an interested party, so don't be shy.
    - Copy your own representative, too - the bill is likely to go to the floor to be voted on by all house members soon.

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  • Jeffrey Bernards March 24, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Of course they don't mention the cost or who will pay for it. Just add it on to the $14 trillion we already owe, what's another $10 billion. Their letter needs to state where the local funding is coming from, like tolls, gas & diesel tax, property taxes. They do polls and 60% of people want a new bridge, they never ask how they planned to pay for it or what people are willing to sacrifice to get a new bridge.
    They spend more time arguing about a concrete slab or cable style bridge, they should spend their time figuring out where the money is coming from. It's like me deciding between a Plasma or LED TV? and having the money for neither (& hoping my parents will pay for it, because I want one). The bridge perpetuates the myth that we will be shipping our food 1500 miles for decades. When they really need to invest that money in the new economy a low carbon economy. Our leaders can't seem to see the future very well.

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  • Joe Rowe March 24, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Democrats have said they want to break ground on by 2013. See the URL below.

    The bike community had their chance to stop the bad CRC design by helping Bob Stacey get elected as Metro President. The bike community barely turned out to help him. He lost by 1,000 votes.

    The 2016 BTA bridge pedal can be held on the CRC in honnor of Kitzhaber and the BTA Board, Mia Burk, Scott Bricker and all the connected friends who say they founded the bike community just like Gore founded the internet. The ride will have to detour through N. Portland as the 10 lanes at Janzen beach dwindle to 2 lanes at the Rose Quarter. That's how the cars solve the problem with poor design.

    Anyone against the CRC is now labeled as a Job Killing radical. Give an inch every day and you will find you are deeply penetrated.

    http://img268.imageshack.us/i/kitzhabercrcoregonian.png/

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  • Joe Rowe March 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    This will be the first time that lawmakers have to go on record as supporting the CRC or not.

    I'm guessing a lot of green democrats will call in sick the day this comes to a house vote. They will allow other members to pass it.

    I just wrote Jefferson Smith. I don't live in his district, but he tends to be the one who claims he is the most green. I do live about 100 yards from the freeway, and even if this bridge was free, it will dump a lot more traffic in North Portland. 10 lanes at Jansen Beach and only 4 lanes at the Rose Quarter.

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  • jim March 24, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    don't think they are going to leave the rose quarter alone with its feable 4 lanes

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  • Hart Noecker March 25, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Why doesn't it mention that the amount of cars crossing the bridge has been decreasing for the last 12 years?

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  • Jim Lee March 25, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I visited the legislature last week and leafleted members of the Senate and House Transportation Committees.

    Staff I spoke with said pro CRC lobbying is intense, so it is highly important for opponents to make the strongest possible case.

    Be sure to email Evan's list and attend the meeting if possible.

    Representative Mary Nolan is not on the Committee but a strong focus of common sense opposition. We must give her all the backing we can.

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    • 007 March 25, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      That's exactly what I was told by a state employee -- that pro CRC lobbying was intense.

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  • andrew March 25, 2011 at 9:23 am

    a massive highway expansion in the portland area, directly against the interest of all portland riders, and all the BTA can say is they're concerned about the cost? i think it's time for an organization that will actually advocate for cyclist's interests.

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  • gregg woodlawn March 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

    This is the last chance for us to stop this. There isn't a bigger local issue.

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  • q`Tzal March 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

    From the text of HJM 22:
    ... Whereas the Columbia River Crossing Project is a long-term, comprehensive solution to address major issues concerning public safety(in what way does increasing traffic amount and speed increase safety?)
    , quality of life (decreasing the time cost of driving will increase traffic amounts in Portland bringing with it more polution, more potential for collisons and decrease quality of life in Portland. It will make commuting to Portland from Vancouver easier thus increasing their quality of life at the expense of ours)
    and economic vitality along five miles of Interstate 5 between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington (Interstate OTR cargo is alleggedly the prime benefactor of this bridge: they aren't stopping and spending money here they pass through. Investing funds in support of a transit mode that ODOT's & WADOT's numbers show is declining and energy demands forebode as obsolete is a poor use of public tax dollars)

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  • Spencer Boomhower March 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for linking to the video, again Jonathan! I think the latest version makes a lot of improvements.

    This

    "urges the federal government" to fund the project.

    seems to be what it's all about. The notion that there's federal money to be had.

    I'm guessing even officials who think the CRC makes little sense would hate to be the party-poopers who crush the dream of federal highway funds coming our way.

    One elected official at Robert Liberty's alternatives panel pointed out that this region pays more into the federal government than it gets back, and implied the CRC was a way of correcting that imbalance. The assumption being, I guess, that the only thing the feds will pay for is freeway projects.

    And the CRC is most definitely a freeway project. Describing it as a bridge is just good marketing; I'm sure the funding of bridges tests better with the public than the funding of freeways.

    Now, with repetition, even CRC opponents have fallen into the trap of calling it a bridge.

    But what we're talking about here is 4 miles of freeway and freeway interchanges with half a mile of bridge in the middle.

    And almost twice as much money is going to the freeway bits, which is something I tried to highlight in the latest version of the video. Here's a screen grab: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5178/5523754277_1f5e202422_z.jpg

    Whether the bridge part has pretty cables or arches is a fairly trivial discussion compared to the scope of the whole project, like fussing over the choice of hubcaps on a new Escalade.

    Random thought: you know that factoid about how the entirety of Portland's bike infrastructure could be built for the cost of one mile of urban freeway? Well, I'd like to see that kind of comparison made with the CRC. Specifically, I'd like to know how the replacement cost of all of Portland's surface streets compare to the cost of the CRC. I've heard these numbers knocked around once before, but now I'm blanking on the specifics. But I think it was something like: there's some-odd thousand miles of surface streets in Portland, and their capital cost (or was it replacement cost? or are those the same thing?) is in the tens of billions. Which sounds like a lot, but not when compared to the CRC's $3.6 billion (or $10 billion, to use Joe Cortright's calculations) price tag.

    What's a mile of Portland surface street cost? And how does that compare to a mile of Columbia River Crossing freeway?

    Does anyone out there have these numbers handy?

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  • William Logan March 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Let's look at where we really need the federal funding of highways and do the right thing. Has anyone driven to Astoria and further south along the coastline. We sure could use some help out west folks.
    Take a look at the bridge crossing Young's Bay. What a joke. It is about time we widen this section of Highway 101 giving us more lanes. If anyone is in need of Highway improvements it is out west. A higher bridge will help as well. That way we wouldn't have to stop traffic every time a vessel passes buy.
    Get real. Send the funds our way for a change.
    I vote no for the funding.

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  • jj March 27, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Yes and that factoid is completely misleading. The bike infrastructure was not built from scratch. A true cost estimate would include at least part of the preexisting roads. Urban highways, in contrast, ARE built completely from scratch. Is it any surprise that they cost more per mile?

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    • Spencer Boomhower March 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      An interesting point; you can see how the comparison between bike infrastructure (which is often just new paint on existing pavement) and a new freeway (which is built from scratch) can be difficult to make.

      It would be easier to make the comparison I'd like to see: Between the per-mile cost of building Portland's surface roads from scratch and the cost of building a mile of urban freeway from scratch. That would be more apples-to-apples.

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  • Dan Kaufman March 27, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Here is our letter:

    Dear Honorable Oregon Representatives,

    The Columbia River Crossing Corridor project may seem like a nice jobs program but it is a bad bet for Oregon.

    As you know, we are in the middle of a budget crisis. Oregonians can't afford the direct cost or the tolls.

    It will mean more pollution and more cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods. It is a basically a gift to Clark County single occupancy motorists. One that will only create more congestion eventually.

    Bottom line, the CRC Corridor is a step backwards. We can do better, we have done better, we MUST do better.

    We are counting on you to vote NO on HMJ22.

    Sincerely,

    --
    Dan and Kirsten Kaufman
    PDXK Produtions
    http://www.pdxk.com
    503 267 2862

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  • Spencer Boomhower March 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Also:

    " Oregon's share of the cost is estimated at $400 million."

    $400 million is typically the number quoted as the estimate for Oregon's share (and I used this number in my video) but that usually comes right along with the estimate that Oregon's share will be one-sixth of the projected cost. The upper estimate for the whole CRC is $3.6 billion, which would put that 1/6 share at more like $600 million.

    Of course, the CRC's own projected high-end cost only serves as a high-end if you trust that mega projects stay on budget, which they pretty much don't: http://www.blueoregon.com/2011/03/costly-risks-crc/

    And Oregonians will pay more than even that 1/6 if they drive into Washington (because of tolls, which are slated to provide 1/3 the funding source) or pay federal taxes (which are slated provide the other 1/3 of the funding).

    Not to mention the fact that Oregonians will pay in costs associated with pouring that much more traffic into our North Portland neighborhoods; costs associated with additional wear and tear on the local streets, and health costs from the added pollution.

    I can see why some residents of the metro region might support the CRC if they benefit from it directly, but what's totally baffling is that the rest of the residents of these two states would support pouring so much of their wealth into this relatively tiny area, to accommodate an glut of commuter traffic caused by a quirk of tax codes. My theory is they just don't give it a lot of though - not for lack of thoughtfulness, but because it's so removed from their lives, because it seems like a done deal, and because highways and budgets are two of the most boring topics in existence.

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  • Spencer Boomhower March 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    FYI this committee is in session until 3pm, and you can watch it live here, in hearing room D:

    http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/

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