Monday, January 13, 2014

Columbia River Crossing Kicks off 2014 Legislative Session in Style

The Legislature is gearing up for the short 2014 session, and the Columbia River Crossing leads the agenda, it seems.

Standard Oil Monopoly, 1904. Detail:   Library of Congress

Blue Skies on Tolling!
What a colossal waste. The Salem River Crossing has blown $7 or $8 million, and the Columbia River Crossing had burned more than an order of magnitude more, approaching $200 million wasted.

The latest is an "investment grade" analysis of tolling prepared by ODOT.  First off, wouldn't an investment grade analysis come from an independent third party in the financial services sector?   Instead we get something rather self-serving from ODOT!

Interestingly, from internal evidence in the report, the Oregonian concludes tolling will depress traffic on the I-5 bridge and create diversion to the untolled I-205 bridge. This will exacerbate friction from Clackamas County.

Additionally, State Treasurer Wheeler is still signalling uncertainty or even scepticism.

So these things run counter to Governor Kitzhaber's public optimism/insanity (you pick).

Tomorrow the Legislature kicks off with a meeting of The Joint Legislative Committee on Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement.

Will it be a real hearing?  Or will it be a carefully managed stage show?

Why should Salemites care?  Because without a resolution on this issue, the rest of the state transportation funding priorities cannot realistically be settled.  It's the big domino, and once it falls, others will go in sequence.  Or at least once it goes, others can jostle for position and be debated.  Elswhere there is speculation on jockeying for a 2015 big package of legislation.

You can see why here.  There's no money.  We should raise the gas tax, but that will not be easy.

State funding falls off a cliff! via N3B

Back in a November 2011 memo to the House Interim Committee on Transportation and Economic Development, ODOT Director Matt Garrett called out big problems with debt service:
The Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA) and Jobs and Transportation Act (JTA) programs frontloaded resources...allow[ing] ODOT to build projects much faster than under a “pay-as you-go” funding approach. However, bonding billions of dollars requires paying significant debt service. By 2015 when all the JTA bonds are sold, ODOT expects to pay over $210 million a year out of the State Highway Fund for debt service. The vast majority of the additional revenue ODOT received from the OTIA and JTA programs will go to debt service or to other purposes specified by the legislature. [italics added]
Commercial Street Bridge Replacement, June, 2013
We should remember that there are lots of bridges that need repair - even if, as is the case here, we reject as a rule the need to expand new auto capacity, there's still a whole lotta existing roads and bridges that just simply need to be repaired, replaced, or maintained. And building out capacity for people who bike and walk is a cheap investment in preserving pavement for heavier cars, trucks, and transit.

Salemites should also care about the CRC debate because the SRC is Mini-Me to the Dr. Evil of the CRC, and many of the issues are cognate if not identical.

Back to the Leg, deadlines to file bills pre-session haven't passed, so there's nothing there to comment on yet.  The session formally starts on Monday, February 3rd and goes through March 9th (calendar here).  Not sure what coverage here of the Legislative session will look like.  There may not be much of significance for transportation, and if so, coverage will be spotty, even less than a once-a-week update.


Curt said...

Salemites should also care because increased traffic on 205 will reduce the reliability of service to the airport (whether by car or by HUT).

As for 3rd Bridge planning, of course I agree that it is a huge waste but after following the issue for three years I think it accurately reflects the values and priorities of Salem. As I have pointed out before Salem has wasted at least that much on downtown parking and there is little interest in reallocating that money to make downtown more walkable, bikeable, or livable.

I am also less convinced than ever that any of that planning money (spent or unspent) would make its way back to Salem in any positive way. Likely it would come back in the form of another unneeded expansion of auto capacity and only make things in Salem worse.

Anonymous said...

Senator Courtney says, "I don't think so!"

'Gov. John Kitzhaber sent a letter Monday to Oregon legislative leaders saying it was up to them to revive the Columbia River Crossing, but Senate President Peter Courtney was having none of it.

Courtney, D-Salem, said Oregon did its job last year when lawmakers approved $450 million to replace the Interstate 5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver.

If the bridge is going to be built, Courtney said, it’s up to Gov. Jay Inslee to break an impasse in the Washington Senate, which failed to approve funding for the bridge last year.

“I’ve done my duty,” Courtney said. “It’s time for them to do their duty.”'