On the CRC Mega-Project: Differing Visions, Shared Sense

By John Charles and Bob Stacey. John Charles is the president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute. Bob Stacey is the former executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon. This post is cross-posted over at Oregon Catalyst.

The two of us may be strange bedfellows. Over the past twenty years, we’ve disagreed about many issues, including transit investments, land use laws and the underlying role of government. But recently we were both in Salem criticizing HJM 22, a bill asking the federal government to spend over a billion dollars on the ill-conceived "Columbia River Crossing" mega-project.

We each bring decades of experience in transportation policy to the table. Among the hundreds of projects we’ve seen, the current CRC proposal stands out as a doozy, throwing staggering amounts of money at a wasteful, ineffective plan.

Others, including the project’s own Independent Review Panel, have written about the huge costs to the taxpayers and the state, about the risks of cost overruns in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and about the project not fixing congestion but merely moving it from Vancouver to the I-405/Rose Quarter area. Those are serious problems.

As transportation experts from very different perspectives, we diverge on other flaws of the project. However, we agree on several actions Oregon should take instead of building the highway departments’ current bloated plan:

Every independent review of the CRC mega-project has found major flaws. While some flaws can be fixed, the current plan to build five huge highway interchanges, tear down existing bridges, and build a new bridge is simply too costly and too risky. It won’t get us what we want, but it will stick us with a huge bill. The legislature should demand we do better.

Comments

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    This is an excellent piece, thank you.

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    I agree that this bridge will bring more congestion, not less. The money should be used for more needed public infrastructure. I'm surprised that the Cascade Policy would be in favor of any sort of public investment, with the possible exception of perhaps wagon trails.

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    EXCELLENT post. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    Great article, and well-timed. There's going to be a work session for HJM 22 on the 15th; maybe the good sense from this article will find its way into the conversation.

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    Concur entirely, and would add that some transportation projects are now funded out of general tax dollars not just out of gas tax dollars, so bridges/roads also need to compete for funding priority with schools, health care, etc. Oregon has many higher priorities for $3 billion or more than the CRC.

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    I do not agree that a new auto bridge is needed. Auto traffic over the present I-5 spans has decreased in the past five years. Lower than expected traffic is becoming common in the Pacific NW, including over bridges.

    Any new auto lanes will promote sprawl. A new bridge should be limited to light rail, high-speed train, bus, bike or pedistrian.

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