Archive | Columbia Crossing

How Would ODOT Pay for the CRC?

The Columbia River Crossing was front page news in Salem last week (more on that later), which begs the question, if Oregon goes ahead on its own, how would the bill get paid?

The first installment is the $450M that the legislature committed last year. They’d have to repeat that commitment, as it expired when Washington did not cough up the matching amount. At the time, the legislature did not specify a source of funds to repay the bonds. ODOT had suggested they could cover the first couple of years from existing revenues. That seems somewhat dubious now, as ODOT appears to be effectively broke (i.e., all its revenues are committed), as this post from Sightline demonstrates.

The next slug of revenue would be from tolls. But Joe Cortright, while dissecting the project on Blue Oregon, points out that CDM Smith, the consulting firm that did the investment-grade analysis, has a habit of overestimating toll receipts. And of course, it’s still very much an open question whether Washington will assist us with toll enforcement.

A big inducement for approving the project has always been the prospect of $850M from the feds for the transit component. But this week brings the news that the Congressional Budget Office estimates $100B of general fund dollars or new revenue would be needed to fund the aspirations of the pending Transportation Bill. Can Patty Murray hang onto to about 1% of that for the CRC?

It seems timely that all this is coming to a head just as the next season of “House of Cards” is being released.

And one final thought. Given the diversion of 50,000 cars a day to the I-205 bridge that the tolls are estimated to cause, is it possible that ODOT’s REAL strategy is to eventually toll that bridge too? Is it possible that they simply don’t want to raise that now, judging that while the diversion might be a calamity, proposing tolls on I-205 would make it even harder to get the project adopted at this moment?

Spin Cycle: CRC Seismic Upgrades

Well, at least the half-life of lies being told to support the Columbia River Crossing is getting shorter.

In its morning printed edition of February 10, the Oregonian reported that state bridge engineer Bruce Johnson claimed that “no one had estimated the cost of seismically retrofitting” the I-5 bridges, and speculated that such a retrofit would cost more than half a billion dollars.

By that evening, however, the reporter who wrote the article, posted a blog entry acknowledging that such an estimate (1) had been prepared in 2006, (2) was produced by an expert panel including the quoted engineer Johnson, and (3) the cost was a fraction of the amount mentioned in the morning article.

The Oregonian February 10, 2014 (6am)
Richard Read
Obsolete Interstate Bridge must keep standing if Columbia River Crossing fizzles

Johnson [Bruce Johnson, Oregon’s state bridge engineer] said no one has estimated the cost of seismically retrofitting the Columbia River bridges, but he believes a project would be extremely expensive.

A new substructure would have to be built under the existing bridges for perhaps $500 million or $600 million, which would about equal the cost of the Columbia River Crossing’s bridge portion, Johnson said. The trusses would have to be strengthened, he said, and the drawbridge towers would need to be rebuilt for several hundred million dollars more.

Oregon Live, February 10, 2014, 6:27PM
Richard Read,
Columbia River Crossing: Commenters on Interstate Bridge story bash and praise the CRC (highlights)

Several readers were surprised by Oregon bridge engineer Bruce Johnson’s estimate that seismic retrofitting of the existing bridges would cost perhaps $500 million or $600 million, plus several hundred million dollars more to rebuild the drawbridge towers. In 2006, a panel of experts including Johnson concluded that a raw retrofit would cost between $88 million and $190 million, increasing to a range between $125 million and $265 million when overhead was considered. (Bear in mind that the CRC has spent $190 million on planning, so far).

Does He Mean It This Time?

Governor Kitzhaber has written to the Legislature, setting a deadline for a Columbia River Crossing funding deal. Get it done by March 15th, or he’ll pull the plug once and for all.

Of course ODOT has given us “it must happen by” deadlines at least twice before, and nonetheless sallied onward. And the Governor has “pulled the plug” once before.

Is it real this time? Or just another attempt to arm-twist the Legislature into a bad decision?