why they want to stop a
12-lane I-5 bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project watchers are buzzing after a front page story in The Oregonian yesterday detailed its planning costs.
According to reporter Dylan Rivera, the planning effort for the new I-5 bridge has cost taxpayers $65 million. Here’s more from his opening paragraph:
“A new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River has so far cost taxpayers $65 million, without a spade of dirt turned. By this time next year, the tab will hit $100 million — burning though cash at a rate of more than $1 million a month.
The result: mainly an environmental impact statement and thousands of pages of reports.”
The costs, writes Rivera, go partly to pay the 65 consultants working on the project and to fly in specialists from Florida and San Francisco.
For perspective, PBOT estimates they’ve spent about $60 million (total) to build our entire, existing bicycle network that includes over 370 miles of bikeways and is the envy of many major U.S. cities.
Rivera goes on to detail how many of the major decisions about the project remain at “square one” and how some members of Congress are critical of the project’s cost and scope. Rivera also points out that DOT officials and CRC consultants still maintain all is well with the project, citing normal complexities that arise in projects of this size.
The Oregonian story comes off as bad publicity for the CRC at a time when politicians have to be very careful about supporting funding for big, controversial projects. The O story also has a poll, where a majority of respondents (64% of 451 votes so far) say the project is “too expensive”.
Meanwhile, a grassroots campaign in opposition to the CRC’s preferred “12-lane” solution is maturing. The group, a coalition that includes Rising Tide Cascadia, has a new website at StopTheCRC.org and has been tabling at local events. They join the existing Smarter Bridge Coalition in trying to raise attention to different alternatives to improving the I-5 crossing.
At the recent Sunday Parkways Northeast event, Stop the CRC activists and the paid CRC consultants had booths within a stone’s throw of each other. It made for some interesting conversations and visual juxtapositions:
were not shy about where they flew their flag.
With the high price tag of the CRC coming into center focus, talks about tolling have ramped up. The CRC website is now hosting a Tolling Study to garner feedback on the various tolling scenarios. The Portland Mercury wrote about tolls in its July 9th issue, and reporter Sarah Mirk wrote in a blog post that Metro Council President David Bragdon recalled, during a recent trip to DC, that U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said the project would be paid with tolls.
[On a sort of related note, Bragdon’s term is coming to an end and it’s been reported that in the race to replace him will be Bob Stacey and Rex Burkholder. Stacey is the director of land-use planning non-profit 1000 Friends of Oregon and has been staunchly opposed to the CRC project. Burkholder is a current Metro Commissioner who is known for his support of bikes and progressive planning visions, but who has also supported the CRC project (to the chagrin of some of his environmental-minded constituents).]
On the bike and pedestrian side of things, the CRC’s official bike and ped advisory committee is hammering out details of a security and maintenance agreement to go with what we’ve reported looks to be the front-runner design at the moment — a stacked bridge with a bikeway/walkway underneath. We’ll have a separate story more details on that agreement soon.