Taxpayers for Common Sense recently released a report (see page 27) that finds $2 trillion in budget cuts that will allow Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff”–and one of those cuts is the Columbia River Crossing. The agency planning this bridge has managed to spend well over $130 million without accomplishing anything except to design a bridge that the Coast Guard says doesn’t have enough clearance to allow Columbia River ship traffic.
The latest death knell for this porky project was the rejection by Vancouver, Washington voters of a sales tax designed to pay the operating costs of the light-rail line that was supposed to cross the bridge. This has led fiscal conservatives to argue that the current bridge proposal is dead and planners must start over.
The Oregonian editorial board sycophantically responds that the bridge is vital for economic growth and jobs, and the voters didn’t reject the bridge but merely that method of funding it. What a load of crap. Everyone in the Portland area knows that the bridge is totally bloated with pork and light rail.
Even the Oregon Supreme Court (as Antiplanner reader Metrosucks kindly let me know) agrees that the bridge is merely a $2.5 billion bribe to get the city of Vancouver agree to fund light rail. “It was politically impossible for the light rail project to proceed without also building new interstate bridges across the Columbia River,” said the court (see pages 12 and 13 of the Supreme Court opinion).
The truth is that the proposed $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing really isn’t necessary, at least not for transportation purposes. There are far more serious bottlenecks in the Portland area, and even if the existing bridge (part of which dates to 1917) were worn out, it could be replaced for less than $1 billion. The rest of the $3.5 billion is for light rail and other projects unrelated to the actual highway crossing of the Columbia River. Let’s hope Congress is smart enough to kill this project completely dead.