How to Spend $100 Million Doing Nothing

The bureaucrats planning a new bridge across the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington have so far spent $65 million — and by this time next year, they will be up to $100 million — all without accomplishing a thing.

That could have been enough money to replace the Sellwood Bridge, which is in much worse shape, both functionally and structurally — than the Columbia River bridge, but which planners say they don’t have any money for. Maybe that’s because they are spending all their money on planning.

Time was, when a bridge needed replacing, you would replace it. Now it takes a decade or two of consultant reports, environmental impact statements, and public review, with no guarantee that anything will happen at the end of that time. All of this is good for the consultants, planners, and pundits, but not much good for replacing bridges.

The good news, if there is any, is that the Oregonian is actually questioning why the plans call for spending $4 billion on a $1 billion bridge when the agencies in question claim they don’t have any money anyway. As the Antiplanner pointed out more than a year ago, $1 billion is for light rail and $2 billion is for new interchanges for miles north and south of the bridge, and maybe, just maybe, we can do those things later if they are needed at all.

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17 thoughts on “How to Spend $100 Million Doing Nothing

  1. Mike

    The extra padding in that budget goes to pay people like Dan, who like to “deemphasize vehicle throughput” (his words) on streets in favor of new urbanist walk/bike/train delusions. If my job were to take functional technology and find ways to make it work less well, I think I’d eat a bullet, but then again I’m no modern Machiavelli like some people here.

  2. mimizhusband

    Money spent on governmental construction planning is a very difficult area for me to make sense of. The system seems to not yield a balanced decision. I think I too would over design projects that had my name on the engineering plans.

    Voters are hard to please. They want to spend very little for public building projects, yet they are prepared to sue someone if every contingency has been planned and built for.

    The public’s expectations are flawed.

  3. the highwayman

    The Autoplanner: Time was, when a bridge needed replacing, you would replace it. Now it takes a decade or two of consultant reports, environmental impact statements, and public review, with no guarantee that anything will happen at the end of that time. All of this is good for the consultants, planners, and pundits, but not much good for replacing bridges.

    THWM: Coming from you O’Toole, again that really smacks of hypocrisy.

  4. Frank

    It seems pretty easy for planners to plan a bridge over the Willamette for the MAX, streetcar, busses, bikes, and pedestrians. Said bridge is estimated to cost $134 million (any takers on four times over budget?).

    Meanwhile, the delays on I-5 due to the Interstate Bridge’s stupid configuration and bottleneck cause traffic to back up to downtown, and commuters wrack up countless hours parked on the freeway. How the Antiplanner thinks the Sellwood Bridge should be higher priority than the 1915/1958 bridge–which carries far more traffic–is beyond me. Ah, it’s just the wasted money on planning. Yep.

    Do what was done with the Interstate Bridge: charge a toll to pay the construction cost. If the construction goes too high and the toll increases accordingly, people can take the “free” Glenn Jackson Bridge. Then I can get home to northern Portland without all the Vancouverites clogging the freeway.

  5. JimKarlock

    JK: Columbia River Crossing project facts:

    Daily people using transit to cross the river: 1209
    Daily people using bikes to cross the river: 150
    Daily people walking across the river: 30
    Daily people using cars to cross the river: 81,000

    Question:
    Which one(s) justify spending a BILLION Dollars?
    Thanks
    JK

  6. mattb02

    Coming from you O’Toole, again that really smacks of hypocrisy.

    Coming from you, Highwayman, really smacks of stupidity.

    Christ you are inane.

  7. the highwayman

    mattb02 said: Coming from you O’Toole, again that really smacks of hypocrisy.

    Coming from you, Highwayman, really smacks of stupidity.

    THWM: Do you think O’Toole makes all of this up bullshit for free?

    He’s complaining about money wasting consultants, when he’s a money wasting consultant himself.

  8. JimKarlock

    THWM: Do you think O’Toole makes all of this up bullshit for free?
    He’s complaining about money wasting consultants, when he’s a money wasting consultant himself.
    JK: The real question is who pays THWM to post his BS here and disrupt this site?

    Thanks
    JK

  9. Frank

    the highwayman is not a paid shill; he’s just the village idiot.

    Take for instance his statement:

    “…a private bridge would be subsidized by traffic comming [sic] from public streets.”

    Ignoring his inability to spell or upgrade to Firefox with a spell check, we learn that the highwayman doesn’t really understand the definition of the word “subsidy“.

    Best to just ignore him. Maybe he’ll figure it out and go away.

  10. the highwayman

    Cross subsidy might better describe things then.

    Though I don’t give a shit, that you guys don’t give a shit.

    I’m just here for the libertarian comedy.

  11. t g

    Frank,

    If one looks at the etymology of “subsidy”, Latin: subsidium for auxiliary force, help, highwayman’s use of the word should reasonably stand. Even without that, it does not take excessive creative wrangling to extend the word’s connotation from direct aid to indirect, an extension of the meaning which may in fact not even be necessary.

    When a central city stadium is built and neighboring interesections are improved by local government funds to accommodate the increase in traffic, what libertarian would argue against calling that a subsidy?

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