Always Read the Fine Print: CRC Edition

Last week we mentioned that the Columbia River Crossing had lowered its cost estimate.

Our correspondent Joe Cortright read the fine print on the document involved (the Cost Estimate Validation Report – PDF, 1M) and found a few interesting tidbits:

Why do they put this out on a Friday afternoon, the slowest news period of the week? Well, because when you read more closely, you’ll see that it now appears that the CRC will not be done until 2021 or 2022–if all the funding comes in as planned.

Also, this announced budget savings make no allowance for funding delays. A one-year delay, by their estimate would cost $57 million, which would erase a majority of the newly announced cost savings.

Funding could easily be delayed, but their worst case scenario is a maximum one-year delay in getting funding from states and feds, and claim there’s a 90% chance Vancouver voters will approve the CTRAN tax increase at the election in November 2012. So they essentially don’t have an estimate of how long it takes if the delay is longer, or one of the things doesn’t show up at all, or if they get less money than the full-meal-deal.

They also haven’t allowed for a delay in getting tolling approved: See the following from p.85 of the PDF. They think there’s a 75% chance they’ll get the WA Legislature to approve tolling.

Excluded – funding risks being modeled as separate scenarios. Expect FHWA will grant tolling authority if State approves because it’s just for the main bridge (minor risk). WSDOT will pursue tolling authority during the 2012 legislature (ends March 2012). Tolling authoirty will be critical to pursue Federal funding (1/3 of project funding), however, Legislators will be uncomfortable granting tolling authority (which will provide the required 1/3 local funding) unless other funding mechanisms are in place for CRC. Federal piece won’t come without state funding. Five of nine local (Clark County) legislators oppose tolling. Significant risk that tolling won’t be approved in Washington. AUthority to toll already exists in Oregon.

They are now anticipating a legal challenge to the FEIS. They think that a successful appeal that required a supplemental DEIS would produce a only a 12 month delay. They think there is only a 10% chance that the the NEPA challenge would be successful See page 90 of the PDF

Increase risk. Recent interaction with PEAC and parties involved with bridge type selection push the likelihood of challenge is almost 100%. The likelihood of a delay resulting from the challenge depends on the outcome from this set of potential (mutually- exclusive) outcomes: A) 10% chance that challenge leads to supplemental EIS delaying Activity 4 by 12 months at cost of $1.6M / month (i.e., $19M); B) 70% chance of no supplemental EIS (no delay) but cost to fight challenge of $200-300k/month for 12 months (i.e., $3M); or C) 20% chance that there is no cost or schedule delay.

They’ve also made no allowance for the effects of the latest Tim Eyman ballot measure — up in November, that would ban variable tolling, and according to the WA Treasurer, make it impossible to sell toll backed bonds.

3 responses to “Always Read the Fine Print: CRC Edition”

  1. The Tim Eyman ballot measure is pretty obnoxious. It might put an end to a couple bad projects (CRC, Seattle waterfront tunnel), but would also block light rail to Bellevue and would screw up any future plans for managing highway demand through tolls. It also specifically prohibits using toll money for transit. I really hope it doesn’t pass.

  2. Light rail to Bellevue–over a floating bridge? Perhaps it is possible, but the express bus service from Eastgate to downtown Seattle I used three months ago worked very well: timely, quick, comfortable.

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