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

Shirley Ybarra
May 20, 2009, 11:19pm

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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