Can the CRC Pay its Way in Tolls? Only in a Pipedream?

Apparently, the answer is “no one knows.”

The Oregonian’s Jeff Manning digs into the consultants’ reports and finds the interesting conclusion that:

“None of these models… was specifically developed for evaluating tolling applications, and therefore all of them lack to varying degree one or more of modeling features essential for road pricing analyses.” .

Washington’s State Treasurer Jim McIntire has also expressed concern:

For the CRC to pay that ever-increasing debt service, it is counting on significant traffic growth and escalating tolls. The CRC’s initial plan called for increasing the toll 2.5 percent every year for the 30-year life of the bonds.

McIntire doesn’t like this aspect of the plan either, saying that annual toll hikes may not be politically feasible.

“I would argue that it’s a pipedream,” McIntire said last week. “I think we need to be upfront with people. We need level debt service and level tolls.”

Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is scheduled to brief Governor Kitzhaber tomorrow. I wonder what he’ll be saying?

Apparently one thing the $130M in planning so far hasn’t paid for is an investment grade toll analysis…

9 responses to “Can the CRC Pay its Way in Tolls? Only in a Pipedream?”

  1. “Apparently one thing the $130M in planning so far hasn’t paid for is an investment grade toll analysis…”

    What a surprise. The tolling plans are similar to the TDM plans, they are just numbers plugged in to make the project work.

    The problem with developing a tolling model for funding is that some of the projects supporters think they are going to set tolls to limit congestion.

    A model for congestion pricing is very straight forward. You target the maximum number of vehicles using the bridge at a given time and set the toll to meet that target. Unfortunately, that model for congestion pricing may bring in less money than allowing more vehicles at a lower price. That’s a problem if you are depending on toll revenue to pay off bonds.

  2. Variable tolls should be used to manage traffic, plain and simple. The funds raised should be split between debt service, maintenance, and paying for alternatives to paying the toll such as transit. This whole trend of using tolls to pay off the project is a really bad one. The first problem is that traffic is not increasing over the years, the second is that if tolls are too high it just deters more people from using the bridge, so you might actually get less money from the tolls.

  3. Drop all the interchange rebuilds, narrow a new bridge to 8 lanes with light rail and two local traffic lanes on a second deck plus bike/ped facilities and the cost is cut in half. End of problem.

  4. Lenny,
    The interchange rebuilds were to accomodate light rail.

    The perpetual insistance that light rail be forced upon Clark County is astounding.

    There is NO justification for doing so.

    It’s cost prohibitive and will ruin downtown Vancouver with a light rail dead zone right through the middle of it.

    I realize, like most people there will be no bridge without Light Rail being forced upon Clark County with or without any public votes.

    So the only option is no bridge at all until
    Sam Adams, Rex Burkholder et al are no longer involved.

    A question: Does the CRC need 37 feet of ped bike width like the Sellwood bridge?

    The Glenn Jackson has one 9 feet ped/bike path.

  5. The interchange rebuilds were to accomodate light rail.

    There’s plenty of real things to criticize about the CRC project, no need to assert that which is patently untrue. The overwhelming majority of the proposed interchanges are auto lanes, approaches, and bypasses that have nothing at all to do with transit.

    But don’t take my word for it, just look at the map. (PDF)

  6. Does the CRC need 37 feet of ped bike width like the Sellwood bridge?

    Just curious… Where do you arrive at the 37ft figure? According to the CRC’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement “Fact Sheet” (PDF), the path width is described as 20ft.

    I don’t know exactly how that 20ft is to be divvied up, but it works out to an 8ft bidirectional sidewalk, and one 6ft bike lane in each direction. Not extravagant.

    As for the Sellwood, as has often been pointed out by commenters here, a number of folks tend to believe that the extra-wide deck of the proposed Sellwood bridge is a back door approach by ODOT to allow for more auto lanes in the future.

    If you want to talk to folks here about cost cutting of the Sellwood by trimming a few feet here and there, as well as scaling back the expensive and unnecessary interchange with Hwy 43, I suspect you’ll have a sympathetic audience.

    (An audience not particularly sympathetic, however, to the demands of Clackamas County voters who don’t want to pay into the bridge replacement.)

    [Updated with correct link.]

  7. @Bob R:

    Steve’s comment about the interchanges reminds me of something I heard while watching the videos of the “Bridging the Gaps” event that are hosted on A couple times it was asserted that the CRC is actually a light rail project in freeway project’s clothing. The theory being that people on the Portland side of the river are just pretending to support the proposal of $1.8 billion in freeway spending as a means of advancing their true agenda: forcing a $860 million light rail project on Clark County. You can see in that link they even call it the “CRC Light Rail Project.”

    It was strange for me to see this bizarro-world version of my view of the CRC, which is: it is massive freeway expansion disguised as bridge construction ($760 million).

    I would think the fact that the projected bridge costs and light rail costs *combined* are less than the projected freeway construction costs would make it hard to see the CRC as anything but a freeway project. Interesting to see another point of view on this.

    (BTW Steve, I don’t mean to say this is your point of view; it just happens that what you said here reminded me of what I saw on

  8. Steve,

    Of all the things to possibly complain about on the CRC, you pick the width of the Multi-use Path? Look at the designs; the path is an afterthought, stuck in the lower deck of the bridge. The superstructure already exists here, to support the 6 lanes above. The cost of this path is extremely small, relative to the project. If you want to save money, start looking at the interchanges, that’s where most of the money is going.

  9. The citizen-activist group, Third Bridge Now, is hosting a discussion session to present alternatives to the Columbia River Crossing Project. Supporters of alternate ideas are invited to present their concept. The public is invited. Friday, July 29 5:30-8 pm and Saturday, June 30 10am -8 pm. Clark County Public Service Building, 6th floor, 1300 Franklin St., Vancouver WA.

    If you would like to present your concept of an alternative to the CRC project contact:
    Sharon Nasset @ 503-283-9585

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