CRC: $1.5B from Tolls – Is it Affordable?

Members of the Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council were told Friday (as reported in the Trib) that tolling could potentially raise $1.49B of the project cost.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart asked the obvious question:

Council member Steve Stuart noted that the estimates did not include any analysis of whether drivers could afford the tolls, or whether the project would provide enough of a benefit to justify them. Stuart, a Clark County Commissioner, said the council expects a formal cost-benefit analysis before being asked to make any recommendations.

So, how did we get $60M into the planning without cost-benefit analysis at this level?

11 responses to “CRC: $1.5B from Tolls – Is it Affordable?”

  1. The CRC and the Governors’ Task Force before it were agenda driven, not data driven. WSDOT and ODOT want a big new bridge and have manipulated both data and the process to get it. When you recognized that the bridges have just a typical peak hour problem and that 1/3 of the trips are local, very different and less costly solutions emerge. The irony in the Clark country reaction to tolls is that without all those SOV trips from same in the peaks, we would not even be talking about I-5.

  2. Whew!! I am glad that there is at least one item that nearly everyone on this board agrees upon.

    Part of my beef with the CRC process is that they have not been at all revelatory of where a new bridge would get us in reducing overall traffic problems on I-5. It, essentially, doesn’t get us anywhere. The ironic thing, IMO, is that former Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams 2005 Freeway Loop study has already pointed that out and concluded that additional traffic will push I-5 past its limit and trigger expensive improvements. Where would the extra traffic come from, if light rail proves to be a success?

    It will come, as it has before, along light rail lines, with new traffic from the densification that is intended to occur along such routes. We do make a gain with initially some traffic opting for the light rail line, but this gain appears to last no more than five years…until it is overwhelmed by the number of new residents along the route who opt to not use the light rail system.

    However, in all the alternatives to the CRC that various groups and individuals have been proposing I don’t see one idea that rolls all of those needs into one, albeit compromised,concept ….except the Third Interstate Bridge. I agree that tolling is going to be a necessity, but I would rather see tolling go to fund a needed new component—that, certainly, a rapidly growing area such as ours needs and that puts it on a par with similar US metropolitan regions—instead of a convoluted economic and social engineering strategy that ultimately won’t even work…unless you have bottomless funding and a populace patient enough to put up with endless construction projects.

  3. Note in today’s Oregonian editorial…they report Fred Hansen asking about the time difference for freight using I-205 vs I-5. The CRC staff could not answer this simple question. The Governors’ TF…so called Trade Partnership…had NO data on freight. Indeed the only project to emerge from that phase is the Delta/Lombard widening which is removing the virtual “freight only” add-lane off Columbia Blvd. Freight project, my eye. The CRC is a “SOV” project…its about how to move more single occupancy vehicles into Portland’s capacity limited streets.

  4. Get rid of useless light rail and live with the intersections a few years longer and you have an UNDER 1 Billion dollar project that is affordable without tolls.



  5. Get rid of useless light rail and live with the intersections a few years longer and you have an UNDER 1 Billion dollar project that is affordable without tolls.

    I don’t think we can solve transportation issues between SW Washington/Clark Co. and the Portland area for under one billion dollars. JK thinks we need additional lane capacity, via a new bridge, right within the Interstate 5 Corridor. All that will do is inevitably lead to saturation on Interstate 5, which, according to ODOT is already functioning very near to its capacity. I would only support that solution if I desired to see more wasteful spending and seemingly endless construction bottlenecks.

    The greatest job growth in the region, over the last two decades, has been in Washington Co. I vividly recall working on the first huge Intel site in Washington Co…1988, I think…and being awed by the enormous capital sum being put into that plant, and realizing that we had definitely turned a corner regarding jobs and employment. I think that trend will continue and that seems evident by the push for sizable urban reserve areas throughout Washington Co. I know the dust hasn’t settled on that discussion, but it seems headed for significant growth.

    Clark Co. will also continue its trajectory of fast growth. Clark Co. residents working in Oregon are currently bringing in $150 million annually to Oregon revenue. (pre-recession figures). This amount will probably continue to grow.

    Give them the faster connections to employment opportunities they are already paying for with a new route between Vancouver and Washington Co. Since traffic to Washington Co. has probably made the single greatest contribution to I-5 congestion this alternative, assuming it connects to enough major thoroughfares, would alter the balance of traffic on I-5 to make the levels tolerable once again. When traffic is moving at reasonable speeds express bus service becomes an attractive option.

  6. The irony in the Clark country reaction to tolls is that without all those SOV trips from same in the peaks, we would not even be talking about I-5.

    I’d love a citation regarding that.

    I-5 through Portland sucks on the reverse commute, or whatever we want to call it, Southbound also. Maybe the current Delta/Victory fixes will make a difference, but so far it seems like a bottleneck. If we can displace more jobs, maybe we can force people to move across the river.

  7. Dave, remember that 50% of the congestion on I-5 is incident related, so better management needs to happen as well. There is no question this is a peak hour problem, with the usual “special event” now and then in the non-peaks. A local bridge would reduce traffic volumes on the freeway…why use a freeway to go a mile or two unless you have no choice…and lightrail would offer an option for those who choose not to congest at all, but just take a nap.

  8. Lenny,

    Have you ridden one of the hybrid CruiseMobiles? Frankly, as much as I love riding the Max (I do that every day too), I find the CruiseMobiles every bit a smooth and quiet, and you don’t have any winos.

    With a little TDM (e.g. congestion tolling at the peaks only) paying for more frequent and more comprehensive express service, C-Tran’s expresses can make a bigger difference that the MOuSe will at 2400 pph max.

  9. Ron,

    Your idea of a low level bridge over the Willamette that bypasses St. Johns for people heading to Washington County is a great one. You’re going to have to expand Cornelius Pass Road to make it fly, but that probably wouldn’t be too hideously expensive.

    I do object to the idea of ramming a new road parallel to Columbia Boulevard through Smith and Bybee Lakes. Just use Columbia and you’ll be fine.

    But why not connect the thing to I-5 at Marine Drive? Your bypass can be the fourth lane’s traffic so that a new five lane bridge doesn’t overload I-5. It the think that makes the mid-size bridge work.

    There’s plenty of capacity on the north side of the river (two lanes on SR 14 and four on I-5 as far as SR500). It’s south of Marine Drive that’s the problem. So if Marine Drive can siphon off more traffic than that which goes to the terminals, it could make the current overbuilt design more practical.

    So the bypass is a great idea. But it would not be as well served by a Bridge to Nowhere alongside the BNSF crossing.

    You’re not thinking of having Sarah run for governor here in Washington are you?

  10. For starts, C-Tran could add a “Limited” bus down I-5 from Salmon Creek, via 99th P&R and downtown Vancouver to MAX at Delta/Vanport (bypassing Hayden Island). The 44 Limited does this from Orchards, but there is nothing except local and downtown Portland service in the I-5 corridor, so no connection to jobs in Rivergate, Swan Island, Interstate Corridor, Lower Albina and the west end of the Columbia Corridor.

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