Today's CRC News: Hero Jackie Dingfelder, Financial Problems

Evan Manvel

Today's 18-11 CRC vote was for major highway expansions.

But Sen. Jackie Dingflder (D-Portland), whose district she notes is bisected by two major highways, explains her no vote against the CRC mega-highway boondoggle.

Dingfelder was the single Democratic Senator to stand up against the polluting mega-highway.

Her speech notes concern about traffic diversion to I-205 and I-84, Glisan and 82nd, etc. Which means increased danger and air pollution in her neighborhood.

"It's a matter of good long-term planning. There is a talk about a study but there are not specifics."

Dingfelder notes the diversion of SR 520 traffic to I-90 in Seattle, and the problem with funding (that after three years this is simply debt our credit card draining ODOT's funds).

This is courage in the face of extreme pressure - while 10 Republicans were so bold (all but Knopp, Starr, Winters, and Hansell; Bates was absent), no other Senate Democrat showed such courage. Write to Dingfelder to thank her for protecting her community.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Wheeler made a statement in what is perhaps the most ill-timed statement, post-vote. Per Steve Duin in The Oregonian:

"The Legislature is moving at the speed of light, for reasons only they can explain," Ted Wheeler said Monday, shortly after the Senate rushed out the funding package on an 18-11 vote. "There's a financial process to analyze this, and the Legislature bypassed it.

"We move on a different schedule. The bill doesn't say I'm a rubber stamp. I'm not."

Rubber-stamping is the Legislature's mission in life. In July 2011, Wheeler demolished the CRC's outdated and exaggerated traffic projections and tolling data, leaving a $500 million gash in the project budget.

Neither the House nor the Senate invited the state treasurer to testify whether those problems still exist. Of course, they do.

"The project costs haven't been nailed down," Wheeler said. "There are a lot of question marks, including whether the federal funds will materialize. We're concerned about the governance model if the tolls don't pan out. The Coast Guard hasn't signed off on the height yet, so we don't know what revisions will be necessary.

Hopefully Treasurer Wheeler can create some sanity.

And the Willamette Week noted the toll revenue projections came from a company whose previous efforts have majorly failed:

The consultant CRC officials paid to give them the rosy projections has a history making disastrously wrong tolling projections.

The company—CDM Smith, formerly Wilbur Smith—made fatal errors in its estimates for two Southern California projects, according to Seattle-based Sightline Institute.

In January, Sightline reported that the San Joaquin and the California Foothills/Eastern toll roads have had their bonds moved to junk status, meaning investors don't think they'll make their money back.

Governor Kitzhaber can still veto this mess. Let's hope he returns to his Dr. Jekyll and does just that.

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