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CRC project announces $4.2 million "construction techniques test"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 20th, 2011 at 11:53 am

Artists rendering.
(Graphic: CRC)

Columbia River Crossing project staff announced today that they've awarded a $4.22 million contract to begin "pre-construction" of the estimated $3.5 billion project.

The contract will go to a Washington-based firm (Max J Kuney Company). In a press release, the CRC project said the firm will, "conduct a construction techniques test project in early 2012."

Deputy project director Kris Strickler added that, "The test project will allow engineers to refine design assumptions and project plans, keeping us on schedule to start construction by the end of 2013."

In addition to this "pre-construction" contract, the CRC project has already cost taxpayers an estimated $130 million in planning and PR expenses.

CRC project staff want the public and elected officials to see this project as being inevitable and are happy to share this news as yet another sign of its momentum. But outspoken bridge critic and economist Joe Cortright calls that momentum nothing more than a "fiction purchased by $130 million in planning money."

Cortright points to a lack of funding comments from local and regional agencies as well as the federal government as a sign that the project is far from a done deal.

In testimony to Metro back in August, Cortright said,
"CRC is trading on the sheer volume of its work and a vague sense of inevitability to move the project along. But still, after years of "planning" they haven't raised dime number one to actually pay for construction."

So, does today's announcement kill Cortright's chief argument? He says it doesn't.

"This is planning, not construction," he wrote me via email today. "The holes they are boring are not for the actual bridge itself. They are to get data on the geology and to assess the environmental effects of the drilling/pile driving... Still not a dime for actual construction of the bridge."

US DOT Assistant Secretary of Transportation Policy Polly Trottenberg didn't help dispel that feeling in a recent interview with BikePortland. "The one issue with that project [the CRC] is that the funding is still not in place," she told me in an interview published this morning, "Whether our blessing of the next step of it will make the funding emerge... We'll have to see."

Read the CRC's full announcement here.

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Comments
  • 9watts December 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Any way to know out of which taxpayer pocket all this money so far spent on it has come? Aren't we fretting over how to cut $16M from PBOT's budget?

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  • Ken Southerland December 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    To add insult to injury on a bridge that will already benefit Washingtonians way more than Oregonians, this contract goes to a Washington firm. Nice. Can I withhold my taxes?

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    • matthew vilhauer December 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      Clark county has historicly been the 3rd -4th largest income tax generating country for your state. Due to the lack of sales tax many folks that live over here go to Portland to shop, let alone dining and entertain ment. Economic & social ties between us are simply a fact of life. To say that Washingtonians will benefit way more is shortsided and disingenuous to this discussion. Using language such as "us & them, you & me" will not foster dialog. This is a project that "We" as residents of this region need to come to terms with. Admittedly it is a very polarizing subject. When light rail expands into Vancouver my neighborhood will be impacted greatly. One of the sites considered for a 800 space parking facility is less than 1/2 mile from my house & many folks that would use it (coming from Felida & Salmon Creek) would use Lincoln av. (the street I live on) as a transit route. The posted speed limit is 25mph but 35-40mph speeds are not uncommon. If you'd like to see firsthand the impact on a neighborhood of a transit center go hang out at the Gateway transit center for a while. I'm well aware of the impact a new bridge will have on neighborhoods, not just the one in which I live.

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      • Chris I December 21, 2011 at 7:10 am

        That's one of the drawbacks of living in Vancouver: auto-centricity. They can't just add a new bridge for local access and light rail. They have to add massively expensive park and rides, miles of expanded freeway, and several expensive rebuilt interchanges. The problem with coming to a regional consensus is that the two sides of the river have very different positions on the issue. I believe that the majority of Portlanders would vote down to project if they understood the costs and the lack of benefits for Portland itself.

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      • Lance P. December 22, 2011 at 3:43 am

        You could always stay in your 'city' and create your own bikeVancouver.org. I personally say so long and good riddance.

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  • G December 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Is there a neighborhood on either side of the bridge that formally supports this highway expansion project?

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    • 9watts December 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      I suspect there is one each side, G, and I suspect it goes by the name of 1%, or vested interests, or long haul trucking lobby, or some such.
      Since Citizens vs. United, it's the same thing, don't you know :-(

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  • Jeffrey Bernards December 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Oregon taxpayers are suppose to pony up $650 million for our part. How many teachers will be laid off? How much further are we going to let our current infrastructure crumble in order to fund this bridge? If this benefits the trucking industry it's time now to add a diesel tax to help pay for the bridge or it's just another special interest group getting something for nothing. It also supports the myth that shipping food 1500 miles is sustainable. If tolling is going to control traffic on the new bridge it should work on the current bridge too, Where are the tolls? Had Kitzhaber supported the bridge during his campaign, I would have boycotted the election, it was wrong on his part not to mention it till after the election.
    Remember to support PreservingOregonRoads.com
    Thanks
    Jeff Bernards
    Chief Petitioner

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    • matthew vilhauer December 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      We are friends and i really have to call you out on compartmentalizing an issue that has many more facets than simply the lobbying special interest groups. If we could take the money out of politics (lobbying & special interests) your initiative for banning studded tires would have been a ballot measure voted on long ago. The respect I have for you and your time & personal money invested cannot be understated. There are leaders & followers in this world and in my mind, on the issue you have chosen to tackle you truly do lead. Please consider all aspects of the crc project. One of the I-5 spans nears it's 100th birthday. Both spans are archaic lift-span bridges that are not simply dangerous but hinder the entire west coast economy. Please consider the bigger picture and not just what you feel you would do if given the choice. Many thanks.

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      • Alex Reed December 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm

        Matthew, the CRC project as currently proposed is 10% bridge replacement, 90% freeway widening. The existing bridge spans could be seismically retrofitted for less than 10% of the CRC budget.

        So, the "archaic lift-span bridges" are not really germane to the discussion. Most CRC opponents support seismic retrofits to the bridges. What we don't support is an expensive, sprawl-inducing enlargement of I-5.

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        • jim December 22, 2011 at 1:13 am

          Portland / Vancouver is going to increase its population regardless of a new bridge. Sprawl is going to happen no matter what. It would be better to accommodate the influx of vehicles that we all depend on ( you cant deny you are dependent on vehicles). We need to keep up with our infrastructure improvements or else we will end up in a giant traffic jam where cars sit idling for hours a day getting 0 mpg, making pollution while they are not moving. sigh

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      • Andrew Seger December 21, 2011 at 12:14 am

        If the CRC project was just about replacing one of the youngest of Portland's bridges it would be something I could totally get behind. New six lane bridge with the lift in a better spot and some hawthorne bridge bike/ped extensions? Great! It's the unwanted freeway expansion and light rail expansion that turns me against the project here. I'm sure there are many people in Vancouver, WA that want light rail in their town. They just happen to be in the distinct minority of Clark County voters. If you want light rail and nice bike facilities you might try not living in Vancouver.

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      • Evan Manvel December 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

        "Both spans are archaic lift-span bridges that are not simply dangerous but hinder the entire west coast economy."

        Are you concerned about car crashes or something else? Because the CRC mega-project would spend $4,000+ million to expand an I-5 segment has roughly the same number of freeway deaths as any other freeway segment in the region.

        And as far as "hinder the entire west coast economy," the project will simply move congestion two miles south. So any southbound traffic will see little if any benefit. All those trucks will get stuck near Alberta and the I-405.

        re: "archaic" - ODOT has said the spans have 55-60 years of life left in them.

        re: "lift-spans", 95% of the lifts, which only happen on average once a day, would be removed by upgrading the BNSF bridge downstream, for $100-$150 million.

        If you had $4,000+ million to improve the region, is this what you would do with it all? This one project?

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  • Tom M December 21, 2011 at 1:08 am

    The one thing everyone forgets is this is this is a one size fits all proposition. That means it's a huge compromise. Nobody wins with this project except those promoting it.

    What has always been needed and nobody want to hear is that there should be two separate spans. The old bridge should be upgraded for seismic survivability. The new one should be for trucking, mass transit and a deck for pedestrians and cyclists. We give trains separate bridges all the time, why not trucking? Then you could run it with a toll system only for the trucks and get it paid for by those who really use it.

    Oh, wait, the trucking lobby would hate that.

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  • Dan Kaufman December 21, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I am sick of paying people to force this freeway down my throat.

    How do we kill it? Do we need a replacement like light rail was for the Mt. Hood Freeway.

    There are some very influential labor unions backing this project. Is there a way to get them to pull their support?

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