One of the several advisory groups I sit on is the Mayor’s Transportation Cabinet, which met last week.
The Columbia River Crossing was the major agenda item, and it’s taken me a few days to recover enough from my deep depression over the conversation to write about it.
It’s like some kind of reality warp has overcome our political leadership around this project. Cases in point from the discussion:
- A report on the Bridge Review Panel recommendations, which essentially said throw away the current design, was positively positioned as setting direction for selection of a design type move forward with.
- An ODOT official indicated that the deck truss alternative would preserve the plan for Hayden Island that had support from the community. This was immediately contradicted by a Metro official who pointed out that part of the Bridge Review Panel report was a recommendation to revisit the idea of replacing the Harbor Bridge, which potentially throws the Hayden Island plan into doubt.
- The importance of being ready to seize Federal funding opportunities was emphasized. However the City of Portland lobbyist in Salem made it clear that no state funding would be forthcoming in this legislative session and ODOT characterized the state funding as a “multi-session process”.
Through all this the Mayor maintained a very positive demeanor about the project moving forward.
It makes me crazy.
To his credit, the Mayor does continue to allow us skeptics a full opportunity to voice our concerns, but it as far as I can tell it has little impact. And I don’t mean to fault the Mayor specifically for falling into the reality-distortion field, as far as I can tell it has captured all state and local officials in Oregon and Washington.
Meanwhile, here are two cautionary tales for projects like this:
- The proposed 520 bridge in Seattle may significantly increase congestion on I-5 (watch out Rose Quarter).
- An expensive new (tolled) traffic tunnel in Queensland is generating about 1/3 of the forecasted traffic, causing bondholders to sell off their toll bonds for pennies on the dollar (anyone seen those investment-grade forecasts for toll revenue for the CRC yet?).