A Critical Analysis of HB 2800

This bill, which authorizes Oregon State bonds to fund construction of the Columbia River Crossing could be voted on by the Oregon House as early as today, and the State Senate later this week. Our correspondent Joe Cortright has been reading closely:

Analysis of HB 2800A
Prepared by Joe Cortright
February 24, 2013

HB 2800A gives ODOT wide latitude to issue bonds without a long-term financial plan in place.

This is still the classic Robert Moses strategy of doing anything to get the project started. ODOT can issue $450 million in bonds backed directly by the highway fund, plus an essentially unlimited amount of bonds backed by toll revenues and federal grants (and backed further by pledges of state highway funds and future federal grants) to get the CRC project started. The treasurer is only given authority to require that ODOT has a financial plan for “the initial phase” of the project.

So under this version of the bill, ODOT can issue an enormous amount of debt, start a portion of the project, and leave it to some later time to figure out how to pay for finishing the project. There is no requirement that the federal government provide the full $850 million the CRC is counting on, or that Washington appropriate or allocate $450 million, and there is no mention of the $400 million in FHWA funding that the CRC has counted on. There is no requirement that the Investment Grade Analysis (due in December 2013) show that tolls will produce any specific dollar amount of funds, much less than $1.3 billion the project’s financial plan assumes. These are toothless triggers.

HB 2800A:

  • allows ODOT to pledge future highway funds and federal grants as security on toll bonds, so that if tolls are under-realized, these funds will be tapped.
  • allows Washington to “commit” only the amount required to get FTA approval for the transit portion of the project; this could be much less than $450 million
  • allows ODOT to issue bonds based only on FTA submitting an application to Congress–not the commitment of any specific dollar amount of funds.
  • does not eliminate the sections authorizing of ODOT to buy land and build highways Washington State, the effect of which is to enable ODOT to evade constitutional restrictions on spending gas tax funds on transit.
  • HB 2800A’s $3.4 billion cost limitation is meaningless: As the Oregonian’s “Truth o Meter” observed on February 20, 2013, it is legally unenforceable and ODOT will not walk away from a partly-completed project.

HB 2800A
Section by Section Analysis

New Subsection 3: Revised Bond Limit
Second sentence: says intent of Legislature is to “pledge . . . with other security”–Coupled with the unamended provisions in Section 13 that allow a pledge of state highway funds and future federal grants, this again gives a loophole.

Subsection (4) (a) State of Washington Contribution
Still no dollar amount listed
Washington needs only contribute an amount needed to satisfy FTA There are no “requirements” of the finance section in the FEIS. If you mean $450 million, why not say $450 million?

Subsection (4)(b) Federal Transit Administration
Essentially no change: DOT submits an application for $850 million; It should be that Congress or DOT sign or approve a FFGA that commits the feds to $850 million

New Subsection (4)(c) Investment Grade Analysis
No dollar amount is specified. The project finance plan assumes $1.3 billion. The IGA should show that tolling will not produce nearly that amount, and the project would still go forward.

New Subsection (4)(d) Approved Financing Plan
This only requires the Treasurer to find that there is enough money for the “initial phase of the project,” as described in the Full Funding Grant Agreement. Since the FFGA has not been created yet, this is completely ambiguous. This allows ODOT to define the initial phase to just be a small portion of the project, and leave un-analyzed and un-funded the amounts necessary to complete the project.

Here’s what serious “sideboards” or “triggers” would look like:

  1. Require specific dollar amounts as minimums from the FTA ($850 million), FHWA ($400 million), State of Washington ($450 million), net proceeds of toll bonds demonstrated by the Investment Grade Analysis ($1.3 billion). These are the amounts specified in the CRC finance plan. If they are not obtained, the State of Oregon is liable for the shortfall.
  2. Require the committed amounts to be legally obligated–not just “applied for” or “committed”–neither of these terms binds anyone to actually provide the money.
  3. Require a financial plan for the entire project, and not just the amount needed for some vague and un-defined “initial phase”. Once you start the project you will be obligated to finish it–with state money. A financial plan for part of the project is not a financial plan at all.
  4. There needs to be a specific provision for stating who will pay for cost overruns. ODOT averages 200% cost overruns on its largest projects; Megaproject bridges average 33% cost overruns. There is no provision in the CRC finance plan or this bill saying how cost overruns will be paid for. This should be addressed now.

48 Responses to A Critical Analysis of HB 2800

  1. Kevin Matthews
    February 25, 2013 at 9:16 am Link

    What about calling a spade a spade: The expanded Columbia River Crossing will induce VMT and increase CO2 emissions at a time when Oregon is pledged to reduce both.

    Under what emissions reductions strategy for Oregon is this vast investment allowable?

    It appears to be time to call the lie on Oregon Democratic legislators, as well as our esteemed Governor.

  2. Kevin Matthews
    February 25, 2013 at 9:17 am Link

    What about calling a spade a spade: The expanded Columbia River Crossing will induce VMT and increase CO2 emissions at a time when Oregon is pledged to reduce both.

    Under what emissions reductions strategy for Oregon is this vast investment allowable?

    It appears to be time to call the lie on Oregon Democratic legislators, as well as our esteemed Governor.

  3. Anandakos
    February 25, 2013 at 11:05 am Link

    Mr. Cortright,

    Your section on “serious ‘sideboards’ or ‘triggers'” makes sense, but it introduces a “chicken and egg” problem. You call for all of the other stakeholders to make binding commitments to the project before Oregon does. If any one of them makes the same demand of Oregon, you have a deadlock situation.

    It’s not clear from your post whether you support or disagree with the current design of the project, but it seems clear that there is an emerging consensus that it achieves little except to improve safety on the bridge (a worthy goal) while spending an enormous amount of money to do it.

    The newer-built parts of Clark County are stuffed with people from Orange, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who sold out during the boom and brought their money (and the California car obsession) with them to escape state income tax. They are bitterly opposed to “urbanizing” Clark County, and without doing so the huge costs of bringing MAX across the Columbia don’t make economic sense. What they really want is for someone — anyone — else to pay for a nice new bridge for them to drive across, toll-free.

    The leader of this rabble in Olympia, Don Benton, has proposed legislation that the total toll revenue collected from Washington-plated cars must not exceed the total toll revenue collected from Oregon-plated cars. Since there will probably be three-and-a-half to four times a many Washington-plated cars using the bridge (few people commute from Oregon to the industrial powerhouse of Clark County) it’s unclear to say the least how such a system would work.

    Which essentially means “No Tolls!” if it passes. And I guess Debbie-In-The-Headlights could then claim some sort of victory over Jim Moeller.

  4. m
    February 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm Link

    “The leader of this rabble in Olympia, Don Benton, has proposed legislation that the total toll revenue collected from Washington-plated cars must not exceed the total toll revenue collected from Oregon-plated cars. Since there will probably be three-and-a-half to four times a many Washington-plated cars using the bridge (few people commute from Oregon to the industrial powerhouse of Clark County) it’s unclear to say the least how such a system would work.”

    I suspect Mr. Benton is unfamiliar with the interstate commerce clause.

  5. Lenny Anderson
    February 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm Link

    Thanks Joe. Sad that OR Dems are about to let the horse out of the barn.
    That Metro rep at the Governors’ I-5 TF voted against the “6-2-2” for the DEIS; had Andy C. voted yes, it would have carried by 10 to 9, and ODOT would have been under more pressure in the DEIS to look at more cost effective alternatives.
    That the Environmental Justice rep on the I-5 TF and other dissenters ended up voting YES; a 25-3 vote would have been much stronger than the 27-1.
    That Metro’s rep to the CRC group, Burkholder, failed to challenge the assumptions behind the mega-project that staff/consultant was pushing. Indeed the project under his watch grew to 12 lanes from the 10 proposed by the I-5 TF. Mayor Adams was more effective, getting it back to 10.
    That Tom Hughes won the Metro President election by just a few votes over Bob Stacey.
    I have worked with Swan Island employees from Clark county for over 25 years. Many many times over the years they have asked “when will be get MAX?” With the number of WA residents who work there, Rivergate, Columbia Corridor, Interstate Corridor, Lower Albina, there is no question that MAX from Vancouver will have a very healthy ridership.

  6. Chris I
    February 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm Link

    That legislation would be unconstitutional. This whole thing is becoming so absurd…

  7. Chris Smith
    February 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm Link

    The Oregon House has passed the bill.

  8. Allan
    February 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm Link

    :( can it be stopped or are we committed to this monstrosity? ):

  9. m
    February 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm Link

    “can it be stopped or are we committed to this monstrosity?”

    45-11 with only 2 Democrats voting against? Sounds like a done deal to me. The Port of Portland REALLY wants this to pass (this is much more than just a bridge bill).

    The Port usually gets what it wants in this town, for better or worse.

  10. Max
    February 25, 2013 at 4:48 pm Link

    I believe there is still a chance to stop this. Start by calling and writing your state senator. Next, try to get the word out to media outlets and groups in other parts of Oregon and let them know how detrimental this will be for all of Oregon. Finally, contacting your US Senator and Representative could help as the Federal money is not available yet.

  11. Lenny Anderson
    February 25, 2013 at 4:50 pm Link

    Got to get those empty containers to T-6; they drive the economy after all.

  12. al m
    February 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm Link

    There is no way to stop a gubmint boondoggle from happening.
    Too many insiders makes big time profit on this stuff and the insiders own the legislatures so get ready for the next big boondoggle.

    Who cares what they do anymore?
    Maybe the ‘sequester’ will stop it.
    (what a bunch of nonsense we the public are subjected to)

  13. Douglas K.
    February 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm Link

    My representative voted yes. If he draws a serious primary challenge in 2014, I’ll donate.

    I still want to know if there’s a way to get this thing before the people for a vote. Apparently it can’t be done by referendum, but would a citizens initiative to repeal the bill work? Or to amend it to put in meaningful triggers, and a sunset date after which funding authority is cut off? Is there enough grass-roots opposition to collect the signatures to make that happen?

  14. Chris I
    February 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm Link

    Remember, Washington still has to fund it, as do the folks in D.C. I just hope they don’t break ground before they figure out that we can’t afford this…

  15. Nathanael
    February 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm Link

    It sound like this bill authorizes shovelling the entire Oregon Highway Fund, for decades in the future, and a large hunk of the General Fund for decades in the future, into a pit (and burning it).

    Like the Big Dig before it in Boston, it is quite likely to bankrupt the state. At the very least it will bankrupt the highway fund. Expect every other state highway in Oregon to be collapsing in 10 years, and expect the governor then to start discussing mass removal of highways due to unaffordability.

    It’s a pity the Oregon Legislature was unable to learn from the history of Massachusetts.

  16. Nathanael
    February 25, 2013 at 8:02 pm Link

    I will say that the only good thing about the CRC is MAX. In 20 years the discussion will be about how to remove the deteriorating and unused highway deck without interrupting MAX service.

  17. Anandakos
    February 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm Link


    “I will say that the only good thing about the CRC is MAX.”

    It’s not really. If there weren’t a half mile wide 40 foot deep river between the Expo Center and downtown Vancouver, extension would be a no-brainer. Even disregarding the mouth-breathers here in Vantucky, MAX would be in downtown today.

    But, as the MOuSe, MAX has serious drawbacks:

    First, from the new parking garage at I-5 and McLaughlin there will be 13 stops to downtown Portland. Even if we assume that the 105 will no longer run to Portland from downtown Vancouver, the 199 and 134 from large park ‘n’ rides to the north will still run. And they’ll make no stops to downtown Portland, cruising across some sort of replacement bridge in an HOV lane. Yes, they’ll get stuck in the jam ups south of Marine Drive just as they do today, but it will be much quicker to get downtown using them than the MAX for commuters other than those from right in downtown Vancouver (who won’t have the choice of the 105).

    So that big parking garage will probably be pretty empty.

    Second, the Steel Bridge is nearly at capacity during the rush hours now. Unless you want to include a tunnel under the Willamette for the Blue/Red main line, we can’t add more than a couple of trains to the Yellow Line route before bringing the Steel Bridge to breakdown, since there is certain to be further growth on the east-west trunk line in the next six or eight years. If you add two trains to the Yellow Line at 120 people per car, you’ve added capacity for 480 passengers in the peak direction. Not much.

    Most Yellow Line trains during the 7 to 8 and 8 to 9 AM hours currently reach Interstate Rose Quarter comfortably full, with at least a couple of dozen standees per car. Sure, we might be able to cram another twenty or thirty people aboard each car in the existing schedules to accommodate the folks boarding in Washington and at Jantzen Beach. Say thirty for generosity. That’s only an additional 240 people per hour in the peak direction! Grand total: 720 people per hour, peak direction.

    Finally, the people in Vantucky are bitterly against “gentrifying” Vancouver to the degree necessary to support expanding the LRT system further into the county. They simply won’t elect leaders with the vision to complete such a system. So the MOuSe is pretty much what you’re buying with the extension.

    All this headwind and an $800 million price tag? It just doesn’t pencil out. You could run express buses for centuries for those 720 peak hour passengers. OK, maybe the LRT doesn’t cost the full $800 million; the lower deck is proposed to carry the separated bike/pedestrian amenities as well. Give that $50 million? So the LRT extension is only $750 mill.

    It’s a lot for a few hundred passengers per day. Say the end result were 720 people from the garage and downtown Vantucky per hour in the peak direction. You could serve that many people using 18 additional express buses per hour (the nice hybrids have about 40 seats per coach). For how many decades can you run an additional 72 * 260 (18,270) bus hours per year? At $100 per hour that’s $1.8 million per year. So (mumble mumble, click-click ….) about 350 years of service for the cost of LRT to downtown Vancouver.

    Not to mention that at least some of those additional 720 passengers per hour will be from Jantzen Beach and increased usage of the Yellow Line local service because it comes more often.

    Many people here in Vantucky want just to build a clone of the I-205 bridge with promised HOV lanes — but we saw what Helicopter Don did to the HOV lane that the Feds paid for on I-5 north of Main Street. I expect the Madore’s of the world can probably find it in their hearts (LOL! Hearts????) to agree to a skinny little bikeway either down the middle like I-205’s (that was brilliant!) or along one side.

    That’s probably what will finally be built. Yes, it will increase VMT’s and probably GHG’s, although the recent CAFE increases may well make that moot.

    But LRT to Vantucky isn’t the savior you think it is.

  18. m
    February 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm Link

    “I just hope they don’t break ground before they figure out that we can’t afford this…”

    They already know we can’t. But that is the MO for all of these big projects (Bridges, Streetcar, Light Rail).

    Get as far down the road as possible so they can then say: “it’s too late to turn back now, we’ve already spent too much money to stop. We need to take on more debt so we can finish it.”

    This IS the strategy and very much par for the course in Oregon.

  19. Anandakos
    February 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm Link

    Replying to myself,

    I made an error in the computation that led to 350 years of service. It should be 1/5 of that or 70 years, because I forgot to multiply the 18 buses per hour times five hours (7 to 8 and 8 to 9 plus 3:30 to 4:30, 4:30 to 5:30 and 5:30 to 6:30 in the afternoon).

    The afternoon peak is greater because people who trickle into the CBD and other central city locations over the non-peak parts of the day tend to return at the same time as the full day commuters.

  20. Douglas K
    February 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm Link

    “But that is the MO for all of these big projects (Bridges, Streetcar, Light Rail).”

    Not around here, it isn’t. None of the streetcar or light rail lines have gone significantly over budget. The aerial tram did, but that was due to a bait & switch (proposing one project, then proceeding with a very different and much more expensive one). We’ve had a good record of rail projects coming in on-time and largely within budget. In the case of the Yellow line, it came in under budget and opened six months early.

  21. Lenny Anderson
    February 26, 2013 at 9:15 am Link

    Most people commute trips across the River are NOT to downtown Portland, let along WA county.
    Most are to jobs in N/NE; the data is clear on this. MAX Yellow Line will be a big plus for those who choose (important word) to not drive.

  22. Anandakos
    February 26, 2013 at 4:43 pm Link


    If your statistics are accurate, they do not use MAX. Almost nobody gets off southbound at Albina-Mississippi (which is the logical point to connect with the 85 from the north).

    Now, maybe they’ll be willing to drive to the new McLaughlin Blvd parking garage and ride MAX to Albina-Mississippi and the 85 to Swan Island. But if the major barrier in their current driving trip (the bridge congestion) is removed, why would they not drive the additional four miles?

    Remember who these people are: caucasian dually drivers. Regardless of the multiple guns hanging in the cab of the F-450, they’re too afraid to ride the MAX. Just read the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on The Columbian’s website whenever “Loot Rail” is discussed.

  23. Lenny Anderson
    February 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm Link

    Clark county residents who work in N/NE do not use MAX in great numbers in part because C-Tran provides no service down I-5 that connects to it. There is nothing comparable to the 44 Limited from Orchards or the 65 Limited from Fishers Landing. It took C-Tran 3 years to connect at all to the Yellow Line at Delta/Vanport, and still they run no Limited service down I-5 from Salmon Creek, 99th P&R, etc.
    Poor transit service is under used; good transit service attracts riders. The incomplete MAX system carries more riders as all FS buslines put together!

  24. bjcefola
    February 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm Link

    Lenny, what’s your source for statistics on workplace for Vancouver commuters?

  25. Anandakos
    February 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm Link


    I don’t quite understand. Are you asking for a “39 Limited” serving Salmon Creek, 99th Street, a couple of street stops in Hazel Dell, a few in Midtown and Downtown Vancouver along Main to Delta Park? That’s the I-5 corridor equivalent of the #44.

    Or are you proposing a route like the north end of the 105 but instead of going through downtown Vancouver, it would go directly to Delta Park but not to downtown Portland?

    I’d like either of those, too, although I think the “39 Limited” would serve more people.

    But I still don’t believe that the demographic that works on Swan Island or by Albina-Mississippi is going to ride the MAX. Those are the only employment centers that MAX even comes close to. In all honesty, you can’t really say it “serves” Swan Island at all.

    The bottom line is, once Joe (or Jane) Sixpack is in his (or her) truck s/he’s not going to park it at I-5 and McLaughlin to ride a train making 12 stops before delivering him/her to a bus to the work destination when there’s a brand spanking new bridge to whoosh across. Much less drive to 99th Street, get on your I-5 Limited to Delta Park, change to the MAX, ride to Albina and change to the #85. Four vehicles each direction.

    It just isn’t going to happen. There’s free parking on Swan Island and it’s only four or five miles from the bridge. Even in that F-450 the round-trip diesel is probably less than the Max/Bus fare.

    Yes, the women who work in offices in downtown Portland are willing to park and ride. They have anywhere from eight to twelve dollars a day for parking, and they’ve got to deal with the Rose Quarter mess or risk getting caught in the Beaverton Parade on I-405. So the express buses make sense for them; they will keep riding.

  26. Chris I
    February 27, 2013 at 7:07 am Link

    Bingo. They are going to divert onto a north Portland neighborhood street, along with thousands of other drivers. This project is going to have serious negative health and safety effects on north Portland residents.

  27. Anandakos
    February 27, 2013 at 10:14 am Link


    They already “divert onto a north Portland neighborhood street”.

    I don’t think replacing the bridge will increase the traffic to and from industrial North Portland greatly. Where are the jobs to which those cars will be destined coming from? Swan Island and Terminals 5 and 6 are mostly full. Plus, the Port of Vancouver right across the river has ambitious expansion plans and more room to achieve them. Why would an industrial worker living in Clark County choose to work at the Port of Portland and pay Oregon income tax if similar work were available in Vancouver?

    Any additional driving — and there will be some, especially if the replacement is cheap and un-tolled — will mostly be destined for the Tech Corridor or southwest to Kruse Way and Wilsonville.

  28. Nick theoldurbanist
    February 27, 2013 at 10:51 am Link


    Most commuters in Vancouver are not going to drive/take a bus to MAX, and then the 85 to Swan Island. That would involve 3 vehicles and a double transfer. Since parking is free in Swan Island, why not drive, even with congestion?

    Doesn’t make sense to use transit in this case. However, if we had a good BRT busway system, providing direct service here would be a no-brainer.
    Now you see another reason why i just don’t like light rail in Portland.

  29. Ron Swaren
    February 27, 2013 at 11:40 am Link

    “Not around here, it isn’t. None of the streetcar or light rail lines have gone significantly over budget.”

    Original projected cost of Gresham MAX line in 1979: $9 million per mile
    Completed cost: $15 million per mile

    Original Estimate of Milwaukie Light Rail: $515 million
    Latest estimated cost: $200 million per mile

    Douglas K. do you ever read a newspaper? Or do you just get your information from BlueOregon, DailyKos, etc?

  30. dave
    February 27, 2013 at 11:45 am Link

    Lenny makes swan island out to be some to be some bus friendly transit oasis. I frequently drop off packages at ups and I rarely see anyone on the sidewalks. Its a car oriented business park on par anything in the burbs.

  31. EngineerScotty
    February 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm Link


    It depends on what figures you use. Most determinations of budget overage or schedule slip are based on the published estimates at the end of the design phase, i.e. before construction starts; not on early planning numbers. The original Gresham line had a slight overrun, IIRC; but $9M/mile was not the final estimate. Likewise with MLR–the final estimate was $1.5B; and so far the project is on time and on budget.

    Whether $200M/mile is a reasonable price for light rail is another question; but it’s incorrect to say that the project is over budget because of changes to early planning estimates that were made well in advance of detailed design.

  32. Anandakos
    February 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm Link


    BRT would not make sense to Swan Island or the Terminals, because they have no activity between shift changes.

    They are excellent candidates for “peak hour” (shift change) express bus service in general traffic lanes if the replacement bridge is tolled, but the expense and political headaches to support BRT would be serious overkill. C-Tran has a few such buses to the Rose Quarter and the Marquam Hill. I have never understood why they didn’t at least try something like that to Swan Island, but I expect it’s the abundant free parking. They know nobody would use it when both the bridge and parking are free.

    That’s not to say there are no good opportunities for BRT in the region. Just not to North Portland industrial areas.

  33. Ron Swaren
    February 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm Link

    “Most determinations of budget overage or schedule slip are based on the published estimates at the end of the design phase, i.e. before construction starts; not on early planning numbers. ”
    ” but it’s incorrect to say that the project is over budget ”

    Maybe not to wonks. But public impressions are important, too.

  34. R A Fontes
    February 27, 2013 at 8:50 pm Link

    A citizen might be forgiving of gross underestimates of project costs during initial planning phases if a similar number of projects started with gross cost overestimates. All too often, the only things that seem to be overestimated are purported project benefits.

  35. Douglas K
    February 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm Link

    What Scotty said. Yeah, Ron, I pay attention to facts. There were overages and delays on the tunnel portion of the Westside MAX line that delayed the “phase I” opening, but the overall project (all the way to Hillsboro) was finished on time and on budget, or damn close. And no, I’m not counting preliminary estimates or “projections” made during the scoping process; I’m counting whether the project is finished within the ACTUAL budget that was adopted at the beginning of the project.

    And that includes Milwaukie MAX. It’s ridiculously expensive and I’ve questioned the value of the whole project here more than once. But there’s no sign (so far) that Tri-Met won’t finish it within the projected budget or need to scrape up more money to get it done.

    “Public impressions” aren’t important in evaluating actual numbers. Only the numbers matter. Yes, there are times when you need to take public impressions into account in making policy. The public perception of crime on MAX, for example. The problem is mostly overhyped anecdotes; based on the numbers, there’s not really much of a crime or safety issue at all. But people hear stories and see rowdy teenagers and worry, so we put cops on the train and improve platform lighting and take other mostly symbolic steps to give nervous riders a security blanket.

    But when someone asserts that MAX and Streetcar have an MO of going wildly over budget … it just ain’t so. And nobody should make policy decisions based on fantasies about cost overruns by an agency that (whatever its other flaws) knows how to accurately budget its capital projects.

    If the Columbia Rover Crossing was just a light rail bridge to Vancouver with Tri-Met as the lead agency, I’d be reasonably confident in the accuracy of the budget projections. ODOT, on the other hand….

  36. Allan
    February 28, 2013 at 10:41 am Link

    I was wondering when that project would be de-scoped

  37. Ron Swaren
    February 28, 2013 at 11:21 am Link

    Sure, the costs may be more accurately pinned down on the eve of the construction of a project. But the public discussion has been going on for years prior to that.

    ODOT may do it too. That doesn’t alter the fact that METRO has already created a very tangible estimate.

    “What Scotty said. Yeah, Ron, I pay attention to facts”

    And I hope that the facts will show that light rail lines are now far more expensive than both other modes and probably what they need to be. I like light rail, but when I see lines like the Orange with about half of the passengers that there would be on a $500,000 bus I can’t help but think there are better solutions.

  38. Anandakos
    February 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm Link


    From the quotation about building on a mountain that’s falling down in the article it sounds like they should have done something like the westbound lanes on Snoqualmie Pass. WADOT built a viaduct which did not disturb the existing topography. Sort of like the westbound lanes of I-84 above the Bonneville Dam. But longer; much longer.

  39. Douglas K.
    February 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm Link

    And I hope that the facts will show that light rail lines are now far more expensive than both other modes and probably what they need to be.

    I don’t know about that. The Yellow Line cost around $60 million per mile and the Green Line came in under $70 million per mile. More expensive than buses, but LRT has advantages over buses in operating costs. I don’t see that price range as more than LRT “needs to be”. (The Red Line was built for under $23 million per mile, but practically the entire right of way was already there.)

    Yeah, I’ll give you the Orange Line as “shouldn’t have been built” because it’s preposterously expensive. The Robertson Tunnel cost $63 million per mile, and that was with cost overruns due to unforeseen geological obstacles. Even taking inflation into account, the Orange line costs substantially more than a freakin’ tunnel alignment with construction problems. Something is very wrong there.

  40. Ron Swaren
    February 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm Link

    The MAX resulted from a Devils’ Bargain, that’s all; better than getting stuck with proliferating freeways. The only route that shows a lot of practical advantage is the Red Line to the airport, since people can get off and on with their luggage, without running into each other.

    As far as Clark County goes, the geography is far different from Portland. A highway (SR 14) already connects major population centers, without much in between, so why “reinvent the wheel;” just capitalize on the infrastructure already there. And then, farther north, SR 500 is already there….so ditto. What logic there would be in beginning a short (1.5 mi.) spur of the Orange Line, and then having to go through another process quite like this just to get it to function in a sensible fashion, is beyond me. I would rather see transit planners simply map out the current population centers and then, by fiat put the bus service in. It can be changed later (which has been clarified on this forum many times already).

    Also, transit oriented development will occur in Clark County…. and the Portland area, as well. We don’t need the Rex Burkholders trying to manage it from on high in the limited way that they see fit. I think what a lot of “urbanist” types don’t realize is that people have lives beyond the urban “fabric” that are just as important.

  41. Anandakos
    March 1, 2013 at 9:15 am Link


    The primary costs for the Orange Line are the bridge (shades of MAX to Vancouver) and significant property acquisition between Powell and McLaughlin. Other Max lines have had neither of those costs.

    Yes the Robertson Tunnel was expensive, but it’s surprising how relatively inexpensive bored tunnels have become with the advent of boring machines. It’s not like sandhogs are miners are beavering away at a heading.

    I realize I’m probably not saying anything everyone already knows, but you asked…. Those are the reasons.

  42. Anandakos
    March 1, 2013 at 9:16 am Link

    “and miners” not “are miners”.

  43. Anandakos
    March 1, 2013 at 9:17 am Link

    ouch. “everyone doesn’t already know”.


  44. Douglas K
    March 1, 2013 at 11:54 am Link

    it’s surprising how relatively inexpensive bored tunnels have become with the advent of boring machines

    That’s why I want Tri-Met to take a serious look at a tunnel if they run MAX into Southwest. The Robertson tunnel cost no more (in nominal dollars) than the Yellow or Green Line. Inflation will drive the cost up, of course, but maybe a couple decades of improvements in tunneling technology will shave those costs a bit.

    If a SW surface line costs anything like the Orange line, a tunnel may well be cheaper (as well as supporting a faster and more reliable commute).

  45. EngineerScotty
    March 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm Link

    The expensive part of building a subway, assuming that soil conditions don’t pose unusual difficulties for tunneling, is station caverns.

  46. Douglas K
    March 2, 2013 at 10:13 am Link

    The Robertson tunnel cost $63 million per mile. I can’t find a source for the cost of the Washington Park station, but — from memory — the number $28 million sticks in my head. (If someone has an accurate number, please provide it.) So I’ll roughly double both numbers for inflation: $125 million per mile for a tunnel, $60 million for a station.

    Assume a six mile tunnel through SW with two stations similar to the Washington Park station at Hillsdale and PSU, and a twice-as-expensive station at OHSU/VA. $750 million for the tunnel, $240 million for the stations. A SW tunnel would ballpark in the billion-dollar range. If a surface light rail alignment is proposed that costs more than a billion dollars to cover the same stretch (downtown to Tigard triangle), then the subway option should also be on the table.

  47. Doug
    March 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm Link

    Does anyone know if the fresh Tolling report actually gives I-5 travel figures for 200-2012? I’d like to see the actual travel, not just the projections of a paid consultant.

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