Can the CRC be smaller and slightly less expensive?

Kyle Curtis Facebook

We all have our opinions on the much ballyhooed and long-discussed Columbia River Crossing project to replace the old and outdated Interstate drawbridge--the only drawbridge along i-5 from Canada to Mexico. Should the CRC include an expansion of light rail northwards? Not with Vancouver residents firmly resisting, complete with figurative arms crossed. How about tolls to cover the cost? Ha. Yeah, right. (Tolls on the CRC would have the unintended result of the Glenn Jackson Bridge transforming into a parking lot during morning and evening commutes.)

And speaking of the cost, although estimates fluctuate depending on how the price of gas impacts driving patterns, there is little question that the final tally will be approximate of three billion dollars. And if Oregon's legislature "doesn't act now" the promise of federal matching funds available from a Tea Party-Congress obsessed with ending any and all spending will disappear.

The state of Oregon is on the hook to pony up $590 million of the project's costs. However, Governor Kitzhaber has earmarked only $450 million in his budget proposal for the CRC. The Governor's proposed amount is being referred to as a "placeholder" and last week the Gov met with Metro President Tom Hughes and Councilor Rex Burkholder to discuss the $140 million gap:

"As the governor said, the difference between $450 (million) and $590 (million) – it's between $35 (million) and $38 million a year in debt service," Burkholder said. "The political lifting is the same."

Burkholder said Kitzhaber asked for Metro's input on how the project could be scaled down if it's not fully funded....

Hughes emphasized that Metro doesn't necessarily want to scale back the project. But he said some changes in phasing and footprint of the project, including changing some of the interim solutions for access to Hayden Island, could achieve the $140 million in cost savings.

But if the project could be done for less money, without interim solutions and with a smaller footprint, why isn't that Plan A to begin with?

"I think because the total purpose of the project may not be completely met by the other alternative," Hughes said. "To get what you need out of the project requires the full project. The stuff we supported it for requires the full project. But if it's not going to be possible, what are the alternatives?"

So let's get this straight: At present, full funding for the state's share of the costs isn't being considered, and as a result there is discussions with Metro to "scale back" the CRC project. But this isn't a retreat back to Plan A to consider how to do the CRC with less money and with a smaller footprint. Even though--by definition--efforts to "scale back" the CRC would result in less money and with a smaller footprint. Confused? Join the club.

Oh, also in the release provided by Metro, Hughes is quoted as saying that both he and Governor Kithaber "hate the amount of time" its taken to plan the CRC. You know, just like every other Oregon resident...

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