I couldn’t suppress a chuckle when reading the agenda (PDF, 32K) for the JPACT meeting coming up on Thursday.
The committee will not only vote on the LPA and RTP amendment for the Columbia River Crossing, but they will also vote on an RTP amendment “to Reduce the ODOT Region 1 Modernization Program”.
In transportation-speak, “modernization” means highway expansion. Because counties are so strapped for transportation dollars, the last Legislature tweaked the gas tax distribution formula to give a little more money to counties and take it from ODOT’s expansion programs.
This pretty clearly makes the point that the gas tax is a zero sum game.
I think this is relevant to CRC, because the CRC funding plan (as much of one as there is – it would fit on the back of a napkin) assumes that the State of Oregon will come up with about $700M for the project. The only place the Legislature is going to find that kind of money is from a gas tax increase (bonded for a LONG time). And given the difficulty in raising the gas tax, and the dire maintenance needs around the state, it’s perfectly clear to me that any increase in gas tax for the CRC is an increase in gas tax that’s NOT going to fund other important needs (think Sellwood Bridge).
Let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that the CRC is going to be funded by some giant pot of money dropping from the sky. It’s going to come out of the hide of other important priorities in our region and our state.
BTW – what’s getting cut from “modernization”? Most of the $26M in cuts will come from $14M saved by delaying or canceling (I can’t tell which from the agenda materials) the expansion of Highway 26 from 4 to 6 lanes between 185th and Cornell. Now I wonder which Washington County wants more – the Sunset widening or the CRC?