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Leaders stand idly by as Columbia River juggernaut rolls on
The Oregonian ^ | April 25, 2010 | ETHAN SELTZER

Posted on 04/25/2010 7:29:29 AM PDT by Bean Counter

With the spring primaries only weeks away, most voters probably assume that elected leaders seeking new terms have been busy representing us and leading this state into the future. Seems simple enough. But what, more precisely, do we expect? For starters, showing up, not lying and obeying the law, but that goes for every citizen. Certainly we expect more of leaders.

At a minimum, we should expect them to pay attention to the long-term needs of our state, and the long-term consequences of the decisions made today to meet needs now and likely to emerge. You and I get to live our lives in the present, but we expect our elected representatives, leaders all, to pay attention to the interacting decisions that will shape and condition the future. In fact, they must perform this function for they are the only ones in our system of government that are formally charged with this oversight.

So what if I told you that the biggest public works project in the history of the state has received no formal review by our state Legislature? No votes, nothing. What if you were told that this project will be approved by nonelected agency officials at the state and federal levels? And what if you were told that, by the way, more than $100 million has been spent to enable those state and federal officials to completely ignore whatever concerns you might have at this point because, well, they have already spent $100 million and it's too late?

You'd probably feel as I do: left out, left behind and left wondering just what our elected leaders have been doing while the Oregon and Washington state transportation departments have been writing themselves a blank check for their version of the Columbia River Crossing project. Astoundingly, the $4 billion Columbia River Crossing will move forward without a single serious debate and vote by the Oregon Legislature.

It's incomprehensible, or should be. How can this biggest single project, this gigantic commitment of funds and community livability, not to mention environmental quality, be receiving so little oversight and no legislative approval? Years ago we might have heard that it's too complicated, that we should let the experts decide. But that era is long gone.

We might be told, as the Columbia River Crossing staff attempts to do, that sure, it's expensive, but you'll never know it happened. No changes will be noticeable in traffic or land use once the bridge is rebuilt. However, after spending the legacy of generations to saddle the coming generations with backward-looking facilities, it seems odd that the legacy of our generation will be an "unnoticeable" but hugely expensive highway project.

I can only conclude that this incredible lack of legislative involvement is due to the fact our leaders really don't want to lead. That the absence of a legislative debate on this project, and any real consideration of alternatives not constrained by the visions of the highway builders and their allies, is due to the fact that the size of the project makes it too hot to handle. Much better to be in the background of the picture at the ribbon-cutting than in the lead for the effort to ensure that this project is more than the rigid, shallow and expensive exercise that it has become. It's hard work, and it might result in killing the project, something that our leaders fear being associated with more than an overheated tab for an increasingly silly project that "someone else" will pay for.

To be sure, our local and regional leaders haven't been helping much. Today, their only real power in the face of the transportation departments and their lobbyists is to resign from the project council and to consistently and forcefully oppose the project. However, their own lists of future local ribbon-cuttings often depend on state transportation department acquiescence, making the prospect of local and regional government opposition dim to say the least.

Clearly it doesn't have to be this way. Leaders could assert that they must and will have a role in this, the biggest public works project of their careers. They do, after all, have some impact on what state agencies do. Our leaders at all levels don't have to be silent or alone on this. Rather than simply organizing their campaigns for re-election, they could actually be organizing a campaign to turn this situation -- some might say this embarrassing situation -- around.

Further, they don't even have to campaign to kill the project. Instead, they could simply ask that a relatively small portion of the unspent millions already committed to the highway builders be reprogrammed to consider real alternatives to the 1960s-era highway project that the transportation agencies can't let go of. Fundamentally, it's time to reprogram the Oregon Department of Transportation. There is simply no excuse that it be allowed to continue its development of Oregon using only a rearview mirror as its principal tool for analysis. And keep this in mind: The Legislature and our local elected leaders don't have to ask for permission; they can act. Will they?

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bridges; columbiariver; crcp; highways
Ethan Seltzer is a professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University.
1 posted on 04/25/2010 7:29:29 AM PDT by Bean Counter
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To: Bean Counter

Does this mean that those off-ramps to nowhere on the I-5 over the Columbia that have been weathering since the mid 1970’s are finally going to be finished?

2 posted on 04/25/2010 7:35:18 AM PDT by Don W (I only keep certain folks' numbers in my 'phone so I know NOT to answer when they call)
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To: Bean Counter

What is the Columbia River Project ?

3 posted on 04/25/2010 7:35:34 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Impeachment !)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

A new bridge connecting Washington and Oregon. It’s a huge deal here, the unelected officials are insisting on LightRail across even though WA residents have made it clear they don’t want it. It’s a boondogal it about thirty different ways.

4 posted on 04/25/2010 7:41:48 AM PDT by mockingbyrd (Remember in November.)
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To: sionnsar; Salvation

Washington and Oregon *ping* please!

I put this up to accent the continuing three ring circus that continues to play here under the banner of the “Columbia River Crossing Project”. As Mr. Selztzer points out, the bill to date is over $100 Million Dollars, and WSDOT who is the project’s sponsor continues to spend $1 Million Dollars per month while accomplishing absolutely nothing.

The latest twist is that Portland Oregon’s Mayor, Sam Adams decided to hire his own architect for $100,000 to come up with his own design for this project.

The entire project has devolved to the point where it is in fact nothing more than an attempt to spread Portland’s overpriced and horribly inefficient Black Hole for money Loot Rail system across the river into Washington State’s Vancouver.

The Loot Rail would be paid for by imposing fully automatic “Variable Tolling” on two different Interstate bridges between Washington and Oregon. There are thousands of Clark County Washington residents who already pay Millions in non-resident income taxes to Oregon, who would also be burdened with at least $1300 annually in tolls.

The tolls would be permanent, and are estimated to yield Billions of dollars in toll revenue that would be used to support bonds, that would go on to finance even more Loot Rail expansion projects.

The entire project is a disaster. Nobody agrees about anything, but the money continues to flow to the project offices in Vancouver, even though local unemployment is almost 15%.

This is a very complex subject, and for more information, you can go to the Project’s website for more info. (No, I do not know how much they spend for the website, but it is probably part of that $1 Million per month...)

5 posted on 04/25/2010 7:43:08 AM PDT by Bean Counter (My name is Obammymandius, King of kings: look upon my works ye mighty, and despair...)
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To: mockingbyrd

Been to Longview a few times.
It was to be our Operation Grand Slam.

6 posted on 04/25/2010 7:46:54 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Impeachment !)
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To: Bean Counter

This guy opposes it for all the wrong reasons, but still...yes, it must be stopped.

I oppose it because it’s a waste of money in that it doesn’t really expand capacity, and because we don’t need a toll bridge in the middle of a metropolitan area. It would also lead to the tolling of the I-205 bridge, or it would be underused.

7 posted on 04/25/2010 7:50:02 AM PDT by B Knotts (Impeach Obama)
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To: Bean Counter

Too big to stop.

8 posted on 04/25/2010 8:37:26 AM PDT by matthew fuller (#11. Thou shalt not argue with morons.)
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To: Bean Counter

Went to Longview / Kelso in fall of ‘08 to pick up an airplane. Strange question when purchasing goods at stores, “Do you live in Washing or Oregon?” Asking why the question I was told that sales taxes are collected differently on on resident vs. the other. Reading this it seems that Oregon is much more “progressive” in their confiscation of wealth.

Is this correct?

9 posted on 04/25/2010 10:20:48 AM PDT by Sequoyah101 (Half of the population is below average)
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To: Bean Counter
Could it be that the WA state planners, along with their friends in the federal government are putting the final nail into the coffin of the big plans for the Port of Portland?

I read an article, yesterday, about the fact that dredging the mouth of the Columbia was not really working and that while it hasn't hurt the salmon runs, it might. The gist of the article was that the environmental risks might out weigh the benefits of dredging.

10 posted on 04/25/2010 10:36:50 AM PDT by Eva
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To: Bean Counter

I forgot to add that the article claimed that Portland could never compete with the deep water ports in WA state and BC.

11 posted on 04/25/2010 10:38:20 AM PDT by Eva
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To: Bean Counter

As currently proposed the Columbia River Crossing will replace three north bound through lanes and three southbound through lanes with three north bound through lanes and three south bound through lanes. Really.

The proposal will also add light rail lines. Currently, to get from downtown Vancouver Washington to downtown Portland Oregon a commuter, taking the C-Tran 105 bus must spend 19 minutes sitting on secure bus.

However, with the new proposal, and assuming the trains crossing the Columbia River travel at the speed of light between downtown Vancouver and the Expo Center (current light rail terminus) a commuter will be able to get to downtown Portland in a meer 29 minutes. As an added benefit, for criminals, light rail cars have little security. But if you are careful, you can usually avoid getting robbed, beaten or urinated on.

All this for 4 billion dollars

Whats not to like?

12 posted on 04/25/2010 11:05:08 AM PDT by Willy Hmmm
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To: Sequoyah101

Yes, according to the RCW, Oregon residents are exempt from paying sales tax in Washington. Not that many of them are beating feet over to Vantucky Holler to do their weekly shopping....

The real sales tax problem is that Clark County residents avoid as much sales tax as possible by shopping over in Oregon. If you’re paying non-resident income tax for absolutely no gain, why add to your burdens with 8.3% (and rising) in the City of Vancouver? We paid more to Oregon in 2008 on just my wife’s wages, than we did on property taxes on our home, and out property taxes have been horrendous.

Of course, the City of Vancouver is facing a $10 Million Dollar deficit, (which of course is less than a year’s financing for the CRCP).

Portland is VERY progressive in their taxes. They have a “Trimet Tax” that collects Loot Rail funds from every employer in the Tr-county area; Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties (in Oregon).

The payroll and self-employment (Trimet) tax rate is 0.6718% ($6.72 per $1,000 on gross payroll). The rate increased to 0.6818% on January 1, 2010.

What that means is that every single employer in the tri-county area, including self-employed people, pay a quarterly tax on every $1000 of wages they paid. That also includes every Clark County Washington resident who works in the Tri-county area. So if your employer paid you $35,000 in 2010, he will remit a total of $238.63 to Trimet, via the State of Oregon, and they proceed to build their own Loot Rail system with the funds.

(Just for reference, in 2007, Trimet collected less than $90,000 in actual fares on it’s entire system....)

Think of Trimet tax as deferred wages that your employer does not pay to you, but remits to the State based on your wages.

That’s why tolls are a non-starter for anyone over here in Washington who works in Portland. The hidden costs are astronomical and tolls will be a real job-killer because people cannot afford $1300 + of additional tax load just to get to work.

And the word on those tolls is that they will be “variable”. The theory Project Staff has been pushing for two years is that you use tolls as a traffic control device.

Traffic volume too high between 3:00 and 5:00 PM?? No problem, just raise the toll so high that it forces people to cross at a different time. Is that going to make you late to work?? Well!! Your mean old Boss just needs to get with the program and institute “flex hours” or maybe let you work at home via the internet, or some other damned fantasy that they can dream up to justify this nonsense...

13 posted on 04/25/2010 2:57:17 PM PDT by Bean Counter (My name is Obammymandius, King of kings: look upon my works ye mighty, and despair...)
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To: 21twelve; Feasor13; matt1234; Bosun; washingtoncon; Pavegunner72; cherry; aw93472; WeatherGuy; ...
Thanks to Bean Counter for the ping.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Say WA? Evergreen State ping

Quick link: WA State Board

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this ping list.
Ping sionnsar if you see a Washington state related thread.

14 posted on 04/25/2010 3:31:10 PM PDT by sionnsar (IranAzadi|5yst3m 0wn3d-it's N0t Y0ur5:SONY|Remember Neda Agha-Soltan|TV--it's NOT news you can trust)
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To: Sequoyah101

Yes. Washingtonians pay no income taxes.

By the way, I live in Longview, Washington.

15 posted on 04/25/2010 3:41:01 PM PDT by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: Bean Counter

Since 1969 I’ve lived in various locales here: Aloha/Beaverton, Oregon; St.Helens, Oregon; downtown Portland, Oregon; and now Longview, Washington.

During this 40 year time period I’ve seen proposals for bridges to be situated somewhere between Portland, Oregon, and Longview, Washington, repeatedly killed because of protests by several groups: environmentalists did not want a bridge located along that 50-mile stretch, as it will destroy wetlands of the Columbia river and attract developement along its corridor; people living along Cornelius Pass didn’t want a four-lane highway punched through their neighborhood; farmers didn’t want it as it would bring urban growth, and the proposals died.

Well, the developement happened anyway, and we still do not have another bridge linking Interstate 5 freeway to Beaverton over the West Side Hills of Portland.

Do I agree with the way Oregon and Washington bureaucrats are handling this? Hell no!

But after 40 years of citizen’s throwing up barriers, I have a glimmer of understanding as to why it is possibly being done this way.

16 posted on 04/25/2010 4:00:44 PM PDT by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: SatinDoll

I know what you mean. There is a “3rd Bridge” group out there right now whose only acceptable idea is to build a bridge from near the Port of Vancouver across Sauvie’s Island and hook up with State Route 30 over near St. Helens someplace. Never ming that it would require a causeway over the last productive farmland in Multnomah County, and would do absolutely nothing to fix the congestion on the I-5 crossing.

The real hell of that extremely bad idea is that State Senator Don Benton (R. Vancouver), who is now running to unseat US Senator Patty Murray (D. Oblivious) came out and endorsed it last year when he was running for reelection, just so he could have some way to disapprove of the present project without just saying “NO!” to the whole mess.

I-5 is where it is through Portland, because Oregon was the last state to complete the US Interstate system. There were so many artsy-fartsy critics about what the route through Portland should be, and what this bridge should look like, and why are we building a freeway, and all that; that in the early 60’s Oregon governor Tom McCall finally put his foot down under pressure from the US Transportation Department, designated the route I-5 would take and ordered construction to be completed. Everyone knew it was a bad idea from the get-go, which is why I-205 was completed on the heels of the I-5 project.

If you really want to fix problems, we need a crossing between Troutdale Oregon and Camas Washington; the so-called “Lady Island” crossing that was long abandoned by the CRCP because it had nothing to do with Loot Rail.

One can make a very good case for replacing the existing Interstate bridges. The foundations on the Eastern span are now in their second century of sitting on Douglas Fir pilings that were hammered into the riverbed back around 1906 onward. The drawbridges are the last two on the US Interstate system, and river traffic or routine maintenance lifts of the spans regularly bring all traffic on I-5 to a dead stop. Any accident on either bridge can take hours to clear, and an accident with a modern semi truck can do serious structural damage to a span that was never designed to carry am 80,000 lb vehicle, much less three lanes each direction, bumper to bumper.

The other very serious issue is seismic stability. The last study concluded that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake would induce sufficient sway in all four bridge counterweight towers to fail them completely and drop all four concrete counterweights through the bridge decks and bury them in the riverbed.

If you check out the CRCP website there are detailed bottom contour charts of the existing bridge piers that show scour holes on almost all of the bridge piers, with one hole on the Oregon side that is bigger than the pier itself. In that same 6.5 magnitude quake, liquefaction of the soil would likely tip at least a couple of the piers right over into the scour holes.

But all of that has become a secondary objective to installing Portland’s light rail system into downtown Vancouver, no matter what.

17 posted on 04/25/2010 7:04:19 PM PDT by Bean Counter (My name is Obammymandius, King of kings: look upon my works ye mighty, and despair...)
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