Out of Control Policy Blog

Cutting Costs on the Columbia River Bridge Project Between Wasington and Oregon Should be Easy.....Skip the Light Rail

The Seattle Times reports on the hand wringing going on regarding the costs of the bridge over the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon. This bridge would purportedly reduce congestion on I-5 significantly. In the past, there was some discussion about this bridge being a public-private partnership toll bridge. That does not seem to be part of the discussion anymore.

The costs of the bridge have risen to $4 billion (yes, that's 4 with a B!).

Now, the engineers are looking to cut costs. They are considering:

  1. Removing a bridge lane, saving $150 million.
  2. Delaying interchange work, saving $200-300 million.
  3. Not building an interchange in Oregon, saving $400-500 million.

The problem with these cost-cutting measures is that someday these interchanges will likely become necessary. And guess what? They will be more expensive then.

A much better way to cut costs would be to eliminate light rail, whicih would save $750 million. In addition, light rail will require a sales tax increase or some other revenue "boost." Since it will never be able to pay for itself, is light rail worth it?

Shirley Ybarra is Senior Transportation Policy Analyst

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Comments to "Cutting Costs on the Columbia River Bridge Project Between Wasington and Oregon Should be Easy.....Skip the Light Rail":

Celia | June 23, 2009, 8:12pm | #

Portland-Vancouver has an opportunity to lead in alternative transportation that relieves us of an oil addiction that at once fuels terrorism and contributes to global climate change. Not only does 40% of all US CO2 emissions come from cars, but the Saudi family from whom we buy oil also funds Islamic fundamentalist schools across the Middle East. Every time we go to the gas pump, we subsidize terrorism and contribute to the US' annual 2.2 billion metric tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. The unfortunate thing is that cars are convenient! And what is right is not always easy or popular. We in Portland have the chance to lead the US by innovating transportation infrastructure that ceases to subsidize terrorism, removes CO2-emitting cars (19 lbs per gallon of gas burned) from the road, and coaxes people from their cars (also increasing their physical activity -- favorable to combating obesity levels). We are afflicted with Dollaris myopia, which prevents us from seeing beyond dollar signs to the very real, grave, near-future implications of the kind of climate and world our grandchildren will live in if we don't take action now. To propose more lanes but without the light rail could not be more regressive in thinking. (Sources: Hot, Flat and Crowded [by Thomas Friedman]; the film "Who killed the electric car"; and World Resources Institute http://earthtrends.wri.org/pdf_library/data_tables/cli3_2005.pdf )

Thank you for reading my comment.

Celia | June 23, 2009, 8:33pm | #

(as for the costs, why not make GM subsidize the project as part of their $50 billion bailout? They did, after all, kill the technology and initiatives that would have put completely emission-free -- not even hybrid! -- cars on the road. We could consider it a contrition offering.)

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