Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to sit in on the first half of the Portland Freight Advisory Committee meeting. As I previously reported, ODOT Director Matt Garrett and Washington Secretary of Transportation of Transportation Paula Hammond were the featured guests, discussing the Columbia River Crossing.
The format was interesting, it felt a bit like Committee Chair Corky Collier was interviewing two folks on a talk show (with questions from the audience thrown in).
While Director Garrett is a familiar face, this was the first time I’ve heard Secretary Hammond speak, and I found a number of her comments interesting:
- The financial plan for the project is held together with “string, failing wire and duct tape”
- The project will be looking for $500-600M from each state legislature
- She spoke favorably of variable pricing and noted that Washington is using pre-construction tolling to help finance other projects
- Washington does not have a constitutional restriction on use of toll revenues, and allows tolling as a demand-management tool, not just for project finance. Priorities for use of toll revenue are repaying construction financing and operation and maintenance of the facility. Use for demand alternatives (e.g., transit) is still an open conversation in the Washington legislature
I was also struck by one comment from a committee member. The $400M appropriation (earmark) the project will be seeking from Congress would the the “largest such appropriation in history that went to a district other than one represented by the Speaker of the House.”
Hey, we can dream, can’t we?