UPDATE: Oregon Supreme Court Blows the Whistle on CRC and Metro

by lewwaters

Found in the Willamette Week, The $2.5 Billion Bribe Oregon’s Supreme Court says light-rail politics drove plans for a new I-5 bridge.

Of course, we in Clark County have known this, as CRC continues forcing us to accept the project with Light Rail, in spite of 3 past indications we did not want it.

In response to allegations filed by opponents to the Metro, the Oregon Supreme Court stated in their decision, “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.”

The Willamette Week adds, “Chief Justice Paul De Muniz highlighted Metro’s land-use decision. In it, the regional agency explains the freeway bridge and associated improvements were necessary to get the light-rail line built after Clark County voters in 1995 overwhelmingly rejected funding for a new light-rail line.”

Or as Metro later summarized it: ‘There is no light rail without the freeway bridge[s] being replaced’.”

While the court decided in favor of Metro overall in the case, the glaring admission in the written opinion (pg 8, lines 9 through 12) is one many of us have stated and has been denied, that replacing the bridges is primarily to carry light rail from Portland to Vancouver.

Perhaps not the intent, but Oregon’s Supreme Court unwittingly reveal the main reason the I-5 Bridges ‘must’ be replaced is to force Portland’s financially failing Light Rail upon us, whether we want it or not.

I urge all to read the Willamette Week article and the complete 18-page decision here

Ironic in timing, but Vancouver mayor Tim Leavitt wrote an op-ed that appears in the Reflector the same day where he claims to be “Setting the Record Straight.”

One claim he makes is, “The CRC has been driven by extensive citizen input over many years, thorough planning and scientific/engineering analysis, and the collaboration of local, state and federal agencies and representatives of the people.”

He also states, “The current bridge crossing is dangerous. Period.”

The spans are not listed on the Structurally Deficient Bridges list.

Bridgehunter.com lists the ratings of the Interstate Bridge as of a 2009 Inspection as:
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Appraisal: Functionally obsolete
Sufficiency rating: 31.5 (out of 100)

The definition of “Functionally Obsolete” I found  is: “A functionally obsolete bridge is one that was built to standards that are not used today. These bridges are not automatically rated as structurally deficient, nor are they inherently unsafe. Functionally obsolete bridges are those that do not have adequate lane widths, shoulder widths, or vertical clearances to serve current traffic demand, or those that may be occasionally flooded.”

On needing replaced now, ODOT wrote in 2005, since removed;

“The Interstate (twin) Bridges on Interstate 5 connect Portland, Oregon with Vancouver, Washington across the Columbia River. The bridges consist of northbound and southbound spans built in 1917 and 1958, respectively. The side-by-side steel structures have tandem lift-span capabilities to accommodate a national and international shipping industry.”

“The two bridges have a full-time crew on deck to keep the aging structures in top operating condition. Only three other Oregon bridges — all in Astoria — have a designated maintenance crew.”

“This personalized care, combined with large maintenance projects, has kept the spans healthy and free of weight restrictions. With ongoing preservation, the bridges can serve the public for another 60 years.”

“The Interstate Bridges continue to be a vital link between Portland and Vancouver and complement any long-range plans to manage and improve transportation in the I-5 corridor between the two states.”

On Seismic Vulnerability, a 2006 CRC Report where they commissioned a “panel of experts” to perform a seismic assessment and they reported it was “technically feasible” to upgrade the spans and at a much lower estimated cost than we are now facing.

Not addressed still is the impact on businesses during the upwards of 10 years construction or the increased congestion during the same time period as commuters will be navigating through a construction zone that entire time.

As I have said many times, this project needs to be brought to a screeching halt and redesigned to what we actually need and more importantly, can afford!

21 Responses to “UPDATE: Oregon Supreme Court Blows the Whistle on CRC and Metro”

  1. That’s an excellent article by the Willamette Week. I like their ‘fact-check’ sidebar too!

    If this doesn’t either kill the project completely or at least put a few kinks in it, I don’t know what will.

  2. Click to access crc-light-rail-oregon_supreme_court_crc_decision-1.pdf

    Page 8 Line 9
    Metro specifically
    10 had found that the highway improvements were “necessary to obtain support for the
    11 necessary local funding from Washington for the light rail component.”

  3. Thanks Josef.

    Obviously, ‘Leave’it’ is unaware of the Oregon Supreme Court decision.

    But, we aren’t 😉

  4. Leavitt’s post was full of nonsense. According to him, if the bridge isn’t built, we’ll be thown into complete chaos “…as the world passes us by, our local economy will die.”

  5. It’s helpful that the court made the truth a matter of legal record, but their decision certainly seems like yet another case of judicial overrreach and activism. The idea that, merely because the original legislation didn’t specifically prohibit roadway enhancement for political reasons, it’s therefore OK for metro to build roadways, as a bribe, that actually cost far more than the rail improvement, is a ridiculous and laughable stretch of the original intent. But I guess this sort of thing is “industry standard” these days.

  6. I like Leave’it’s letter where he now claims,

    “The following is a point-by-point factual rebuttal of comments made by Jon Haugen in his December 28, 2011 opinion piece:

    *As noted above, the CRC project includes a new river crossing of 20 lanes, shoulders and bike/pedestrian facilities; five (5) new interchanges; and extension of about one mile of light rail transit (and associated road reconstruction/park and ride facilities) in downtown Vancouver.”

    My how the bridge has grown, LOL 20 lanes now?

    I can only hope it is a typo.

  7. To bad the Reflector doesn’t allow for in-line comments!

  8. “And the Reich burst open full of rotteness and decay…”

  9. When things don’t make sense, they’re usually nonsense.

  10. Hey Tim,
    Why are you pushing a $4 BILLION megaproject when the problem can be solved for $400-900 million?

    That means that about $3 BILLION of the project is really for light rail!

    Why are you pushing $3 billion for light rail when there are only 1650 current transit users?

    Why did a lady, few months ago, get so intimidated by chuckles at her obviously scripted and phony public comment, that she complained about it? Especially when that lady, presumably, frequently negotiates with murders? BTW, do you really have some sort of relationship with that lady?

    (That lady’s complaint was one element that led to reducing public comment at city council. Why did you choose to reduce public input?)

    Tim, give us a break! We are not really as stupid as you assume.

    BTW, here is how you solve the CRC problem for $380 million: http://www.nobridgetolls.com/i205.html
    (If you want to spend more, look at option a and option b on the menu bar on that web site.)

    Since you are a C-Tran board member, I hope you are not hoping for higher gas prices to drive people out of their cars and on to C-Tran – a trivial cost estimate shows that would devastate C-Tran’s finances and require additional sales tax increases.


  11. In today’s Columbian, Leavitt goes even further in questioning whether there should even be a vote on light rail operations funding. Obviously he knows the vote will fail so is hoping to avoid it altogether. He has Hansen and Smith licking his boots, but I doubt the rest of the C-Tran board will go along.

    I wrote to Lou Brancaccio suggesting he ask his boss for permission to follow up on the Willamette Week story, but I doubt if he will. I guess the voters in Clark County read only what Scott Campbell wants them to know.

  12. It’s all about Leavitt’s company, PBS Engineering, making millions off the CRC.

    And don’t forget that the former company of Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes ( Mackay and Sposito) will make millions as well.

    The A.G. and the feds should investigate this.

  13. I wrote to our Congresswoman asking that a federal investigation be opened on this entire project. Something very rotten going on here – it stinks to high heaven of corruption.

  14. Leavitt should have never been allowed to weigh in on any aspect of the CRC since his company stands to gain so much financially.

    Congresswoman or her staff- are you listening to us? This needs to be exposed and investigated. The citizens of your district are asking for your help..

  15. Looks like the CRC is getting a One-Two punch these days. Now the USCG says the current design is too low for shipping traffic and if they raise the level of the bridge, it will be too high for air traffic. Gotta love the USCG!!!

    I seriously believe that if they would have chosen the High Capacity Transit BRT lane design rather than this ridiculous light rail folly of Portland’s Transit folks and Metro who try to pass the light rail design off as the only design acceptable which is a BIG lie and they know it, the bridge would have been rebuilt already. Instead, they made the decision of the people without our input as voters. Taxation with poor representation is what I call it.

    Maybe if they’d eliminate the bottom deck and everything associated with the bottom deck, implement a centralized bike/pedestrian lane like I-205, they’d have more people on board with the project.

  16. Along with the usual denials by CRC – “oh, we just need to raise it a few feet – no big deal. And it wasn’t our fault anyway. Those nasty Coast Guard guys did it!” Move along, nothing to see here…

  17. You have to wonder just how much something has to stink before people will wise up and bury it. Of course, VanGoober has a history of “stinking” from the years when the city’s malfunctioning sludge incinerator made downtown smell like a sewer. It was known as “Sh*t City” back then…

  18. Well Jack, their mentality appears to be that if they’re going down in history as a failure, they’re going down as the biggest Ripoff this region has ever witnessed.


    And Craig…they’ve got to blame someone other than themselves. Kind of a modus operandi, wouldn’t you say???


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