Avoiding Icons

I’ve been reading the Eddington report, a fascinating piece of research and advice to the government of the UK. I’ll be posting on it in more detail later in the week, but I can’t help highlighting one conclusion that seems very much on point for this afternoon’s decision:

The risk is that transport policy can become the pursuit of icons. Almost invariably such projects – ‘grands projets’ – develop real momentum, driven by strong lobbying. The momentum can make such projects difficult – and unpopular – to stop, even when the benefit:cost equation does not stack up, or the environmental and landscape impacts are
unacceptable.

The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere. The suggested benefit:cost ratios of such projects, although only estimates, are often lower than many other less-exciting transport projects. International evidence collated for this Study suggests that the claimed transformational impacts of such projects are rarely observed, and any speculative assessment of ‘macro-economic’ benefits would involve considerable risk, particularly in view of the large sunk cost investment that would be required. Furthermore, the projects are rarely assessed against other interventions that would achieve the same goals – it can often seem that, unless Government can somehow demonstrate that the project’s costs outweigh the benefits, the project should go ahead. In fact, the question should really be are there better ways to achieve the same goals, or are there better uses of the funds to achieve different, but more valuable goals, for the same cost?

Have we had a more iconic project in this region than the CRC?

30 Comments

30 Responses to Avoiding Icons

  1. Adron
    February 27, 2007 at 9:36 am Link

    In fact, the question should really be are there better ways to achieve the same goals, or are there better uses of the funds to achieve different, but more valuable goals, for the same cost?

    This has rarely been the primary concern of Government built transportation infrastructure. Even though it is supposedly a primary concern, the lack of accountability on the part of Government is astronomical to its shareholders (citizens) and disproves any actual concern beyond that of lip service. The interstate is a prime example, high costs, returns that where already available via the private sector without a dime of taxpayer funds from the federal government. – but dammit all, it got built anyway!

    You should get more feds/state/city officials to read that document. Portland does a really good job, but a lot of cities and ESPECIALLY the feds need some serious help figuring out their cost to benefit ratios.

  2. Lenny Anderson
    February 27, 2007 at 11:49 am Link

    Haven’t you voted for Metro council, Portland mayor or city commissioner all these years? These projects reflect the will of the people via their elected reps. Westside MAX was approved by voters ($400M property tax), but most of these projects relfect a policy direction begun in the 70’s that has never been challenged at the ballot box. Go ahead, run for Mayor in ’08 on the CRC Big Bridge platform and see how far you get.

  3. Frank Dufay
    February 27, 2007 at 12:30 pm Link

    The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere…evidence collated for this Study suggests that the claimed transformational impacts of such projects are rarely observed…

    You sure they’re not talking about the Streetcar?

    (Sorry, Chris, couldn’t help myself…)

    And what better ICON do have have than the Tram, which moves hardly anybody, hardly anywhere…and whose cost could’ve at least made a dent in the 600 miles of Portland’s streets not up to standard. Not to mention the 70 miles of completely unpaved streets.

  4. nuovorecord
    February 27, 2007 at 12:39 pm Link

    Frank, if you’re talking about the TOTAL cost of the tram in your post above, remember that you can only count the city’s contribution to the tram. OHSU isn’t going to pave streets in SE Portland.

  5. Jason
    February 27, 2007 at 12:40 pm Link

    While riding the bus recently one Saturday Afternoon (one of the ones that has much lower ridership than the frequent service routes), the driver, another passenger and I engaged in a friendly conversation.

    The driver mentioned how they thought it was strange we have all this money for light rail on 5th and 6th, and all the money for building a tram, but there are still a lot of unpaved streets and our water/sewer pipes are old, bursting, and there’s no talk of replacing them.
    I commented that I had spoken with someone else on the subject (another regular Joe who could be anybody), who said of course we could maintain and improve the infrastructure we have (to make it more productive) vs. build even more, but that’s boring and people like to see new things.

  6. Richard
    February 27, 2007 at 1:32 pm Link

    Lenny,
    “Never been challenged at the ballot box”?
    That’s a falsehood Lenny. Voters “challenged” and turned down light rail twice after the first two lines, then your pals took away the opportunity to vote on them.
    Now people like you would prefer there not be any voting on ANY of the upcoming iconic projects either.

    If given a chance I might vote for a CRC as long as it DID NOT include light rail.
    That particular choice/vote will never see the light of day. Will it Lenny?

    nuovorecord
    You said “OHSU isn’t going to pave streets in SE Portland” That is funny.
    OHSU isn’t going to pave any streets in SoWa either.
    Worse yet the city, with just one of several back room payments, gave OHSU $3.5 million from PDOT’s general fund budget in exchange for some future parking spaces in a future SoWa building.
    But the $3.5 million was taken from borrowed SoWa TIF street funds, paid to OHSU then back filled by the PDOT general fund. This was done during the renegotiations for the rising Tram costs.
    Many other millions found their back room way to OHSU during the negotiations too.
    Routine shady business in the CoP.
    OHSU also is not paying any TriMet payroll taxes in that first SoWa building. Owned by the OHSU 501c3 Doctors Medical Group they are exempt from TriMet, Property taxes and Portland business taxes.
    But then you probably didn’t know any of that and think the Tram cost the taxpayers “hardly anything”. That’s exactly what the city, PDOT and PDC want you to think.
    The rest of the public costs of the iconcin SoWa
    make the tram look like petty cash.

  7. Lenny Anderson
    February 27, 2007 at 1:49 pm Link

    Didn’t Mayor Katz get elected three times? And the only competition she had was that car loving Earl Blumenauer.
    Actually in ’94 South/North passed, in ’96 state lottery passed in the Metro area, but lost statewide, in ’98 South/North re-vote lost by 2K votes, but was clearly favored in Portland and Multnomah county where the project was eventually built with urban renewal funds (basically local property taxes) as local match. I am sure we will get to vote on a property tax measure to fund the lightrail line to Milwaukie. So you will get your chance.
    Actually the Tram is an example of a project that costs the public practically nothing and leverages huge amounts of private and institutional investment. Only a fool would stiff the City’s largest employer.
    Check your sewer/water bill, if you live in Portland…you are spending $1.4B to clean up the Columbia & Willamette, including lots of new sewer lines.

  8. Chris Smith
    February 27, 2007 at 2:13 pm Link

    Eddington would consider the Tram or Streetcar to be in the category of “small schemes” :-)

  9. Richard
    February 27, 2007 at 4:16 pm Link

    Lenny,
    You’ve been one of the loudest and most consistent voiced trumpeting the farce that the “Tram cost the public practically nothing and leverages huge amounts of private and institutional investment”.
    You have no basis for those claims, never share anything but the worn out drum beat about OHSU being the biggest employer and have exhibited a tremendous lack of knowledge and understanding about SoWa. From top to bottom.
    I’m pretty sure everyone, by now, gets the “biggest employer” concept. Enough already. That’s no excuse or green light for anything goes.
    So what gives? You may feel certain ways about the Tram, OHSU and SoWa but please refrain from speaking authoritatively on them.

  10. nuovorecord
    February 27, 2007 at 5:16 pm Link

    Richard,

    I knew all of that. Stop assuming you know what my view of the tram is and stop inflating my point, which was simply that the city’s contribution to the tram was far less than the total cost to build it.

  11. Richard
    February 27, 2007 at 6:00 pm Link

    “I knew all of that”
    I don’t think you did, and I got your very elementary point the first time, (which everyone hear certainly knows), that “the city’s contribution to the tram was far less than the total cost to build it”
    My far greater point is the city’s true share will likely never be acknowledged by the city.
    And that the other aspects of SoWa are even more shady, off budget, obscured and misrepresented by city and PDC staff.
    Today a new dose of accounting comedy was turned over to the SoWa Urban Renewal Advisory Committee and their budget sub committee.
    What a read. More gaps, holes, missing line items, and no running totals for anything.
    Two URAC members have quit as a result of the incomplete budgeting, no accountability and a lack of open books.
    Even the most basic totals, how much has been spent and who got it, is not to be found on any PDC documents made available to anyone.

    You can soft talk about the city’s Tram portion all day and Lenny can remind us over and over again that OHSU is the city’s biggest employer,
    but informative you are not.

  12. Adron
    February 27, 2007 at 6:32 pm Link

    Children children. Don’t get too heated. It’s not like what we say on this blog actually effects the REAL outcome of the CRC and other such sources (I wish it did, because I have had several people comment that I’ve opened their eyes to a lot of history and factual basis for privatization)… but I digress, no point to get personal about it. You might not like each others ideas but at the end of the day we all gotta eat, sleep, and carry on. Might as well be cordial about it.

    As for the comment about all the light rail and such. It’s brought thousands of high income jobs, kept thousands more, and kept those high income jobs in the area. Those high income jobs are the reason Portland can have pet projects like the Streetcar, light rail, and other such nice amenities. If it wasn’t for the light rail and other notions, Portland would still be the north west’s backwater waste basket that it was in the past. The city had zilch in the way of living standards for a long time.

    With all that as far as voting, keep voting Democrat and you’ll get alternative public transportation. Vote Republican and you’ll possibly get some public transportation with psuedo privatized concepts. Vote in some Libertarians you’ll have a tax bill that will start decreasing drastically, competitive transportation, increased density, more sprawl, more job growth, higher competitive markets, some pollution, some pollution cleaned up, more freedoms, more liberties, etc.

    But really, not enough vote for Libertarians. No one within 5 miles of downtown PDX seems to vote for a fartzy Republican, and everyone here seems to love the socialists – I mean Democrats – with all their hearts.

    So really, you vote, but the simple fact is the anti-transit people aren’t getting their way for the forseeable future.

  13. Richard
    February 27, 2007 at 6:58 pm Link

    In short, you really don’t care what’s really going on because you have “notions”.

    That’s exactly what I thought.

    And wild notions you have.

    You say light rail has “brought thousands of high income jobs, kept thousands more, and kept those high income jobs in the area”?

    I’m sure you can point to a source for that “notion”?

    Pretty soon you’ll be saying the “Tram brought thousands of high income biotech research jobs, kept thousands more, and kept those high income jobs in the area”

    Why wait? You and Lenny might as well get to it now. It’s as real as your light rail “notion”.

  14. Bill
    February 27, 2007 at 7:54 pm Link

    City’s cost of the Tram: $8.5 million
    CRC Oregon’s cost: $3 Billion

    Oh yea, definitely apples to apples there!

  15. Frank Dufay
    February 27, 2007 at 8:00 pm Link

    Only a fool would stiff the City’s largest employer.

    And only a fool would be a cheerleader for the city’s largest employer having its employees NOT pay Tri-Met payroll taxes, not pay property taxes, and suck up Parks and Transportation System Development revenues at the expense of the rest of the city’s neighborhoods.

  16. Erik Halstead
    February 27, 2007 at 10:08 pm Link

    You say light rail has “brought thousands of high income jobs, kept thousands more, and kept those high income jobs in the area”?

    On the East Side, there’s no new TOD jobs in Gresham, Gateway was an existing shopping center (Fred Meyer), Hollywood is still centered around Sandy (I guess it’d TOD if you count the 12-Sandy Blvd. bus), and downtown was already being revitalized before MAX was plowed down Morrison and Yamhill. The Lloyd Center area already had most of its office complexes built.

    On the West Side, the Round at Beaverton Central is still largely vacant, the Beaverton Creek business park existed well before MAX (and the land immediately adjacent to the MAX station is still undeveloped), as was Nike. Intel already existed, and Orenco Village’s growth is fueled by the cars in the parking lots that are alongside Cornell Road.

    Hillsboro’s downtown existed for decades before MAX came in. In fact, after the Oregon Electric and Southern Pacific Red Electric interurbans shut down in the 1930s, downtown Hillsboro continued to flourish.

    Portland International Airport has been around since the 1950s, MAX didn’t add to it. The land surrounding the MAX line (Cascade Station) is still vacant, and the ever popular transit-oriented Costco has pulled out of the project (but IKEA is still on.) The Interstate line has seen a few urban renewal projects but let’s face it, Freddy’s would have rebuilt that store with or without MAX at some point.

    Yes – MAX did bring in some out-of-state people to fill the construction jobs. They’re gone. There are the construction jobs that have added thousands of new housing units that are overpriced, that many are owned by investors rather than owner-occupants, whose rents are well above the norm, and as a result it has pushed lower-income individuals out away from where MAX is. Meanwhile, Rockwood is a beautiful sign of progress.

    By the way, Clackamas Town Center is there. MAX is just under construction. I guess there is some hope, some new parking lots will have to be built – I hope TriMet will use local paving contractors to do that work.

    Maybe the Interstate Highway System was an icon – of the 1950s and 1960s. Today it is a workhorse road system that is used by millions daily, whether you’re a long haul trucker, a short haul delivery driver, a commuter, someone driving into town for shopping or appointments, or tourists. MAX is an icon to represent Portland’s decision to not build one freeway. Well, I-84 ended up getting widened all the way to Troutdale, and we’re still talking about the Sunrise Corridor; except instead of routing along Powell it’s along Sunnyside.

    On the westside we built MAX, and we not only had to rebuild the 26/217 interchange, but we had to widen 26 east to Sylvan; west to Cornell; and we’re beginning work to widen it all the way to Cornelius Pass. I wonder when we’ll turn TV Highway into a freeway (or at least a limited access expressway, akin to Vancouver’s SR 500 or the Milwaukie Expressway/Oregon 224).

    Yet we continue to push MAX as an icon of Portland’s great “transportation system”. We focus on MAX without looking at other alternatives, which very well might include (gulp!) more freeway lanes. In fact our obsession with MAX has caused TriMet to cut bus service and stop replacing older busses. Our highways are more congested now than ever (I thought MAX was supposed to help?). And we have the ability to join other cities that have developed commuter rail systems (often in addition, or to compliment, light rail systems) but we steadfastly refuse, thinking that light rail will solve that solution as well.

    We refuse to think that an express bus to Lake Oswego will be suitable; instead we are demanding a streetcar (a smaller, lighter light rail vehicle) be built onto a state highway that is already too narrow at places and has significant grade issues (never mind the fact that a consortium of local governments bought an old railroad right-of-way that in some cases is less than 50 feet away).

    Meanwhile, Seattle happens to have two grand icons – the Space Needle and the Monorail – that are both profitable, privately operated, and are an inspiration to both the city and to visitors to it. We remain fixed in the notion that our MAX system – and now include the Portland Streetcar – is the icon of Portland.

    The Interstate Bridge is not an icon. Nor is the Glenn Jackson Bridge, or the Marquam Bridge. (I guess technically the Fremont Bridge might be an icon, but don’t tell the people who drive on it every day.) We don’t think of those as the crown jewels of our transportation system; yet the four bridges combined serve nearly a half million vehicles daily. How many people ride MAX daily? 90,000. For every MAX rider (systemwide) there are five vehicles that are on one of the four major Interstate highway bridges in the Portland metro area. When you factor in the people who are on busses (TriMet, C-Tran, Greyhound, airport shuttles, charter busses, etc.), and that those highways carry the mail, goods from the Port of Portland, your goods via UPS and FedEx, and much more, maybe we should be paying more attention. Or, is this Portland’s version of a “popularity contest” – instead of voting for the hardest working, but ugliest child, we look to the sexiest, cutest child – even if it hardly makes a dent in the lives of all of us?

  17. Chris Smith
    February 27, 2007 at 10:10 pm Link

    OK, let’s remember not to get personal. Focus on the ideas, issues and opinions, not the people advancing them, please.

  18. Hawthorne
    February 27, 2007 at 11:12 pm Link

    Frank,

    When you resort to using terms like “fool” what else is left in debate other than to call names?

    I think that the debate here should be about ideas…but when you talk like that how can I respond other than to call you names back or remain silent?

  19. Frank Dufay
    February 28, 2007 at 3:25 am Link

    Pardon me, but as you’ll note, the use of the word “fool” was advanced by Lenny Anderson…way back at 1:49 pm, and seemingly without objection by anyone here. That I should finally respond…mon dieu!

    The focus –my focus– was on how supine we are expected to be in the face of OHSU’s unwillingness to join the party with the rest of us in actually paying property and Tri-Met payroll taxes. Oh, I’m sorry…the city’s “largest employer” gets a free ride or we’re “stiffing them?”

    I’ll repeat…we have 70 miles of unpaved streets in this city. How are we going to divvy up our Transportation System Development revenues?

  20. Ross Williams
    February 28, 2007 at 7:04 am Link

    the use of the word “fool” was advanced by Lenny Anderson

    Frank, I think there is a difference between using “fool” rhetorically and applying it in a way clearly directed at a specific person.

    Eddington would consider the Tram or Streetcar to be in the category of “small schemes” :-)

    I think Chris was right about the Tram. The Tram is not a big enough project to be iconic. And it never really was iconic even for a small project. It was heavily debated with a lot of people saying it was both unnecessary and unwanted.

    The problem with this discussion is that the central issue raised is being missed. And it is broader really than transportation projects. Its the tendency for certain solutions to get fixed as central to the discussion early in the process. The result is that they are never really rigorously evaluated and other solutions are never really fully considered. That applies not only to public decisions, but a lot of private ones as well.

    The west side bypass in Washington County was an iconic project. In 1990, virtually every elected official in the county considered it a “when” question, not a whether. Barbara Roberts carrying Washington County in the Governors race as an opponent of the bypass forced it to be put under a microscope.

    The LUTRAQ study by 1000 Friends clarified a set of alternatives. And finally a thorough evaluation showed that, despite all the assumptions, the highway would not provide significant relief to 217. And that investments in the local street grid and transit would provide greater benefits for the same money.

    While I support light rail, I think it has the danger of being iconic, especially in Clark County beyond downtown Vancouver. Investing in light rail to connect suburban park and rides seems to me to be short-sighted.

    Likewise street car projects have that same danger for neighborhoods. People decide they want street car in their neighborhood and then try to figure out how it might provide some transportation or development benefit. i.e. you have a preferred solution looking for a problem. And little consideration of how that money might be better spent.

    I am not sure I would say the Transit Mall is iconic. It was debated, it just had most of the downtown business folks behind it for reasons completely unrelated to transportation. I suppose in that sense, it was iconic. I am not sure the business community ever really evaluated any alternatives or considered what else might be done downtown with that same level of investment.

    But most of the truly iconic projects are road expansions. Given its likely cost, replacing the bridge always should have been treated as a last resort, but it wasn’t. The CRC staff was fleshing out various possible bridge designs for several years through the three different studies. Delta Park was such an iconic project and its going to be built. The Sunrise Freeway was such a project in Clackamas County. Although the creation of the city of Damascus may have transformed that discussion.

    The point is that once a solution becomes central to the discussion, it often is treated entirely differently than any of the other solutions. And that is true even for people who oppose it. In the CRC case, how many bridge options were evaluated? How many land use solutions? How many transportation management solutions? How many transit solutions? How many commuter rail solutions? At most, one of each got any real testing.

  21. Nick
    February 28, 2007 at 9:46 am Link

    MAX is a classic “iconic” project(s) that now has been difficult to stop, even though all the money spent on it has not really brought substantial benefit to the region. IMO, the money would have been much better invested in the bus system, building upon the original bus mall of 1978.

    But now it looks like the “railfans” and their indoctrinees have infested all of the levels of the transit planning around here, and almost all the politicians are buying this “iconic” tripe, thinking that LRT is good for them politically.

    And no, high income people do not ride transit, period, unless they are one of those rare high-income railfans.

  22. Richard
    February 28, 2007 at 10:15 am Link

    Ross,
    Thank you for the perfect example of a speculative study meant to kill a road.
    “The LUTRAQ study by 1000 Friends clarified a set of alternatives.”
    It appears you do not live or drive in Washington County.
    If you did you would know that the 1000 friends speculation that “investments in the local street grid and transit would provide greater benefits for the same money” turned out to be completely WRONG.
    This is a classic maneuver you use and is repeated by Metro and TriMet on a regular basis.
    Citing theories from long ago with the pretense they held true. Never returning to fully evaluate the real world outcome of these so-called
    “alternative” policies they push.
    Are they really alternatives? That implies or suggests they are viable substitutes.
    Whether it’s Orenco Station, Casacade Station, the Beaverton Round or any number of TODs the only thing propping them up as effective or alternative are the initial “studies” and intentions.
    Unfortunately as the Cascade Station demonstrates in GRAND form the theories and intentions have been proven to be pipe dreams and folly.
    Yet for some reason many individuals such as yourself fail to recognize or acknowledge ANY
    of the failures at all, as if it’s “all coming together now”.

    Regarding Franks comments on SoWa, in addition to the PDOT budget being raided for millions to bail out SoWa, Portland Parks has seen at least $4 million diverted from their budget for SoWa. These are the tip of the fiscal iceberg. None of which was anticipated with the 1999 North Macadam plan.
    Yet PDC head Bruce Warner has told the community SoWa is going as planned.
    Once again, right on true form, deliberatly misleading while never revisiting the original intent or “study” for comparison.

    Do you cite the 1999 North Macadam plan as you do the “The LUTRAQ study by 1000 Friends?

    Both have proven to be woefully inaccurate, obsolete and a detriment to sound policy making.

  23. Terry Parker
    February 28, 2007 at 10:35 am Link

    Given your description:

    “The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere. The suggested benefit:cost ratios of such projects, although only estimates, are often lower than many other less-exciting transport projects. International evidence collated for this Study suggests that the claimed transformational impacts of such projects are rarely observed, and any speculative assessment of ‘macro-economic’ benefits would involve considerable risk, particularly in view of the large sunk cost investment that would be required. Furthermore, the projects are rarely assessed against other interventions that would achieve the same goals – it can often seem that, unless Government can somehow demonstrate that the project’s costs outweigh the benefits, the project should go ahead. In fact, the question should really be are there better ways to achieve the same goals, or are there better uses of the funds to achieve different, but more valuable goals, for the same cost?”

    A list of local transport icons can easily include, the tram, most bicycle infrastructure, light rail and the streetcar.

  24. Dan
    February 28, 2007 at 11:46 am Link

    I think it’s hilarious how the people on this website who are railing against how infrastructure money is spent and advocate “efficient” (in their words) use of tax payer dollars are the EXACT SAME individuals who aren’t even blinking an eye on a 6 billion dollar bridge that undisputabley and admitted by everyone will not solve I-5 congestion issues. Hypocricy is a strong word, but come on guys, when you talk about inefficient use of resources you really should be talking into a mirror.

  25. Dan
    February 28, 2007 at 11:53 am Link

    An addendum: I’m not saying every project, transit or otherwise, that has been done in our region has been efficient. I would agree that some projects commented on here have not been a wise use of taxpayer dollars. However, I do find it interesting how many people here will only look at the side of the issue that fits their ideology and refuse to acknowledge factors that are contradictory to this apparantly unflexible belief system.

  26. Richard
    February 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm Link

    Dan,

    You are wrong.
    There is no one not even blinking an eye on a 6 billion dollar bridge. Certainly not the same people opposed to wasteful spending.
    The $6 billion “bridge” and figure came from those who insist the bridge include costly light.

    They would prefer no bridge be built but add light rail to Vancouver.
    The $6 billion figure is mean to kill the bridge.

    You are further wrong if you think anyone in favor of added freeway and bridge capacity, said it will “solve I-5 congestion issues”.
    It will certainly help though.
    Light rail will not help at all.

    The “people here who will only look at the side of the issue that fits their ideology and refuse to acknowledge factors that are contradictory” are the rail transit/bike/ped anti-car folks through and through.

    But as long as you make up straw man views for the opposition you’ll never gain any clarity.

  27. Ross Williams
    February 28, 2007 at 8:21 pm Link

    If you did you would know that the 1000 friends speculation that “investments in the local street grid and transit would provide greater benefits for the same money” turned out to be completely WRONG

    I don’t know how that would be true since most of that money has not been spent. I doubt very many people who drive the Sunset would agree with you that it wasn’t a better investment than a freeway from Wilsonville to Hillsboro that no one can get to.

  28. Erik Halstead
    February 28, 2007 at 9:34 pm Link

    The $6 billion figure is mean to kill the bridge.

    Somehow, I have to believe this statement.

    I believe it was EvergreenTransitFan that pointed out, in another thread, that the second span of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge came in at under $1B, and it also included freeway changes at both the north and south end of the bridge.

    Yet Portland has a long tradition, if you will, of promoting mass transit projects by proclaiming a very low price up front, only to discover immediately before construction that the cost significantly jumped. The “low cost” Washington County Commuter Rail project was sold at a price of $60M; it’s more than double that. Let’s not even discuss the OHSU Tram. The Airport MAX line, I thought was supposed to be largely funded as a public/private partnership; it turns out that the private partnership was actually only a small part of the funding source (and somehow got many of the design-build contracts).

    Am I suggesting that the CRC is cheap? No! But I have to agree that $6 billion on a bridge is a wild overstatement, when a much more expensive (and longer) bridge cost a fraction of such. But unless we decide to build a decorative bridge across the Columbia, such is not an icon but rather something that we need to promote commerce and transportation between the two states. Are we going to sit here and demand that 1% of the cost goes to “art”, and 20% goes to transit…and how much money is being spent on all these workshops, committees, subcommittees, working groups within the subcommittees, meetings held at who-knows-how-many-governmental levels (RTC, Metro, TriMet, ODOT, City of Portland, City of Vancouver, Clark County, Multnomah County, Port of Portland, FHWA, FTA) that are often duplicative, and then the design to come up with who-knows-how-many-designs for it.

    Sigh…

  29. Frank Dufay
    March 1, 2007 at 5:46 am Link

    Ross writes “the central issue raised is being missed…Its the tendency for certain solutions to get fixed as central to the discussion early in the process. The result is that they are never really rigorously evaluated and other solutions are never really fully considered.”

    That is precisely why the tram and streetcar are iconic. The tram as “linchpin”…without which OHSU would’ve fled to suburbia. And how many times have we heard the streetcar as the “catalyst” for billions in development in the Pearl?

    Interestingly, in both cases there was no substantive analysis of alternatives. And –and this ia a big, huge whopper of an “and”– in both cases the initial cost is set artificially low. This is the lets-get-the-ball-rolling, get-a-foot-in-the-door…too-late-to-stop-this-now school of icon building.

  30. Ross Williams
    March 1, 2007 at 6:51 am Link

    That is precisely why the tram and streetcar are iconic.

    I don’t know if I agree. I think the Tram was less a case of icon and more a case of giving OHSU what it wanted. I think the tram probably does serve OHSU better than alternatives.

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