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Is the CRC a $3 Billion Light Rail project with a $380 million highway component?

March 2, 2012

According to the Willamette Week  “The Oregon Supreme Court has succeeded in doing what scores of public meetings, thousands of pages of reports, and endless public relations spin could not: Give us the original rationale behind the proposed $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing.”

“The answer, according to the court: The massive Interstate 5 bridge and freeway project is a “political necessity” to persuade Clark County residents to accept something they previously didn’t want—a MAX light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver. (To read the Feb. 16, 2012 Oregon Supreme Court decision regarding the Columbia River Crossing Project, click here (PDF, 18 pages))”  (quoted from Willamette Week, February 29th, 2012 by NIGEL JAQUISS)

So lets look at the key elements of the CRC project in that light and how they disguised light rail costs as highway cost:

Most obvious is the fact that two double deck bridges were proposed with rail on one lower deck and bike/ped on the other lower deck. But ONLY ONE double deck bridge is really needed for highway if it was built like the Fremont or Marquem bridges. It appears that the only reason for the second bridge is to make way for light rail, with its cost being allocated to highway. About $400 million light rail cost put in the highway account.

Another probable example is the proposed $600 million to rebuild 4 interchanges in Vancouver. The overpasses would have to be widened to accommodate light rail which originally was planned beside I5, so one suspects that is the motivation for doing a complete rebuild of these intersections and putting it in the highway budget. ibid

The $215 million proposed changes to Hayden Island would raise most of the right of way by many feet. One suspects that this is to reduce the slope of the bridge to accommodate light rail, as a highway bridge starting at the current elevation of Hayden island would achieve sufficient height at reasonable highway grades. ibid

Although a light rail connection is not clear for the $412 million Marine drive interchange rebuild, it is not really needed as, with a six north bound lane design, Marine drive can feed its own lane, negating the need to make significant changes.  (It may have been scheduled for rework due to the elevation difference to the new, raised, Hayden Island section, or it merely might had been to run up the cost so that the tolls would be sufficient to serve as a credit for the local match for the light rail funding in order to get the Feds to pay ALL of the light rail cost.) ibid

To estimate what the bridge should cost, take the square footage of the deck of the I205 bridge and inflation adjusted it. Next calculate the square footage of deck of a 12 lane bridge from Evergreen Blvd to Hayden Island. They are within a couple percent of the same, therefore the CRC bridge should cost about the same as the I205 bridge —$382 million (inflation adjusted).

The other $3 billion is the true cost of the light rail project!

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