Wishful Thinking and High Hopes Fuel CRC, Not Concern for the People

by lewwaters

CRC CorruptionFor some years now, the Columbia River Crossing Project, an overly ambitious desire to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridges between Clark County Washington and Portland Oregon and force Clark County citizens to accept Portland’s financially embattled light rail against our will, has elected to ignore the voters and taxpayers on both sides of the river. Common sense was thrown out the window from the beginning as schemes, plots and at times, outright lies have been used in an effort to portray the project as being favorable to citizens.

On the contrary, more people are expressing opposition after each effort.

But when it comes to the empire building effort of those involved with the CRC, taxpayers mean little even though we will be forced to foot the bill for this boondoggle for many generations and jobs will be destroyed upriver and in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Jobs that the very people they expect to foot the bill for this nightmare rely on to survive and pay the tolls, fees and taxes that will be needed to pay the monstrosity off.

It borders on collusion between the two state legislatures, both controlled by Liberal Democrats, as taxpayers are cast aside and bills are passed to move ahead with the project, even though neither state has any idea where the funding is going to come from just to get started.

Both Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and newly elected Washington Governor Jay Inslee have called for the project to move forward, blindly ignoring the plight of citizens and that other more important transportation projects in their states will likely have to be prolonged or cancelled in order to build the unneeded project.

Let there be no mistake, the bridge replacement is secondary to the primary goal, extending Portland’s ailing light rail and it’s $1.6 Billion in unfounded liabilities into Clark County, sucking our economy dry north of the Columbia River.

Hearings in both legislatures have been stacked with known pro-light rail proponents while the work of economists, forensic accountants and engineers who see the vast troubles of the current design are ignored.

We now see that Oregon has “fast-tracked” a $450 Million bill through committee, bypassing the required ways & means committee and onto the House floor for a vote without a care of where the funding will come from. The debt would cost about $30 Million per year on top of what ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) already has committed.

Oregon Republican Sen. Fred Girod spoke out against the measure citing “the giant project would use up bonding capacity and money needed for projects in rural Oregon” and adding, “It puts rural Oregon in jeopardy on a lot of projects.”

Nigel Jaquiss, one of the few reporters speaking out critically on this overly bloated project puts it in a Willamette Week article as they are “Making It Up As They Go” the plan to pay for the CRC is both fact and fantasy.

While tolling of the current I-5 Bridge in advance of the construction of the new bridges (light rail carriers in reality) has long been the plan, Jaquiss reminds us that in 2011 the Oregon “State Treasurer destroyed the project’s financial underpinnings: that there would be enough traffic to meet estimated toll revenues” with some “19,000 vehicles per day behind CRC estimates” currently.

With tolling likely to be somewhere in the range of $4 to $8 a crossing, that would amount to a daily shortfall of $76,000 at the lower end. Or, some $27.8 Million a year shortfall if only $4 a crossing, nearly the entire estimated yearly expense of the repayment.

Other funding options we’ve heard proposed is $20 to $40 a year added fee on our car license tabs, an employee tax on businesses, 10 cents additional tax per gallon of gasoline, all to be put on the backs of the taxpayers who have been denied a vote on whether or not we even want it.

Ignoring that the federal government is $16.6 Trillion in debt, proponents still bank on money coming from the federal government that hasn’t even been allocated yet.

But none of that matters of Democrats and Kitzhaber plunge head long into the morass of the CRC, placing final approval in the hands of the Washington Legislature.

While Governor Inslee is deep in the tank in favor of the CRC along with most Democrats in Olympia, we are fortunate to have in our State Senate the majority controlled by a “philosophical coalition” made up of Republicans and moderate Democrats who might take a bit more critical look at how it is to be funded.

Inslee, showing his commitment to the project over constituents, recently appointed former Clackamas County Chairwoman Lynn Peterson as Secretary of Transportation replacing outgoing Paula Hammond. Both Hammond and Peterson are also deep in the tank for the CRC and light rail.

Peterson in fact, while chairing the Clackamas County Commission was a strong proponent of also tolling the paid for I-205 Bridge east of the I-5 Bridge that would leave commuters with no option but pay the expected high tolls.

She was also instrumental in forcing the Milwaukie light rail line into Clackamas County in Oregon prior to resigning her County Commission seat to Join Governor Kitzhaber’s administration as a transportation advisor.

A May 20, 2010 letter she authored to the CRC said,

“we continue to be interested in the idea of tolling the I-205 bridge along with the I-5 bridge as a pilot project. We know this is not widely popular and are more than willing to discuss these issues with the broader public. It would not be appropriate to use these tolls revenues solely for the Columbia River Crossing when there are so many other long-anticipated projects worthy of such funding along I-205 in Vancouver, Portland and Clackamas County.

In simpler terms, she advocates tolling in perpetuity to fund whatever pie in the sky socialist project along the freeway she can dream of.

That is our new Secretary of Transportation. She places her designs far above the public’s ability to pay for them.

In the Washington Legislature we now see proposed a 10 cent a gallon gas tax increase, which would place us at 47.5 cents per gallon tax, a new annual car tab fee based on 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value that was previously overturned by citizen initiative I-695 in 1999, lowering motor vehicle excise tax (license tab fees) to $30 per year, requiring voter approval be required for any tax increase, and repealing existing vehicle taxes that was later declared unconstitutional, but another version of same bill was approved by the legislature.

On the plus side, although it will face stiff opposition from Democrats in the House, State Senators Don Benton and Ann Rivers have introduced a bill calling for the elimination of light rail on the CRC, a major sticking point for those opposed.

If light rail were to be eliminated, the cost of the bridge replacement might be more acceptable to taxpayers, but as we found out through an Oregon Supreme Court ruling last year, light rail is the driving force behind this monstrosity. As Oregon proponents put it, no light rail, no bridge.

As was reported by forensic accountant Tiffany Couch, who has attended hearings and spoke of troubling aspects she uncovered in an independent review of the CRC’s books,

“According to the testimony of Kris Strickler, [a] reduced project would provide for the bridge, all of the light rail into Clark College, and some interchanges…modified Hayden Island and modified Marine Drive and only SR 14 in Vancouver.”

In other words, all of the promised improvements we have been told were necessary for this project over the years are on the chopping block, except for whatever must be preserved to enable light rail.

As I said above, this is not a bridge project nor does it have anything to do with relieving any of the congestion seen in the I-5 corridor, it is a light rail project that will stick Clark County citizens and commuters with a large portion of Oregon’s $1.6 Billion unfunded liabilities as well as being responsible for paying the lion’s share of tolling to pay for their light rail project.

A couple pluses though, is the recent resolution passed by the Clark County Commissioners opposing light rail and a pending lawsuit in Cowlitz County Superior Court against Clark County and the Clark County Auditor over the rejection of signatures on a citizen petition to let the citizens of Vancouver vote if they wish to allow the city to contribute any funds at all towards the CRC.

While neither will directly stop the project, they should make potential bond investors wary of buying bonds to fund this boondoggle, seeing they might not profit very well if they do.

Add to all of this that Portland has high hopes of drawing the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic games and we see that elected officials are writing checks the public just cannot afford. They will bankrupt the public they will expect to pay even higher taxes for an Olympic Stadium.

3 Comments to “Wishful Thinking and High Hopes Fuel CRC, Not Concern for the People”

  1. Good Lord, the 2024 Summer Olympic Games? We’d be better off to close the bridges across the Columbia rather than improve them!

  2. C Tran plans to contract with TriMet drivers and operators for the light rail. They have said they plan to pay the salaries only not the benefits. If you were the TriMet Union and you knew that TriMet was never going to pay the 1. 6,000,000,000 dollars of unfunded pensions and benefits, what kind of leverage would you be able to apply to CTran who sits there with a 4,000,000,000 dollar light rail system and no drivers?

  3. The removal of paula Hammond was a plus as it showed the people just what kind of governor we have. An even more progressive green energy UN Agenda 21 type of guy. Vote for a recall and get him out of here now!

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