Oregon’s Tina Koteck has taken a fresh look at Oregon priorities as she begins her 4-year term as Governor. Her $32 billion budget proposal does NOT contain any funding for the $7.5 billion Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) program. That is a significant setback for Greg Johnson and his team.
KGW TV’s Pat Dorris digs into the details, with former Oregon State Senator and candidate for Governor Betsy Johnson weighing in.
The Washington state legislature has already allocated over $1.1 billion for the project. $1 billion was allocated in the 2022 $17 billion Move Ahead Washington bill. Furthermore, another $100 million had been allocated in the 2015 $16 billion Connecting Washington package.
In the failed Columbia River Crossing effort, the actual bridge was $792 million; less than one quarter of the final $3.5 billion projected cost. Citizens wonder why they are being asked to pay such a huge price for a project that will cost nearly TEN TIMES that $792 million, and a project that won’t fix the traffic congestion problem.
The IBR projects that morning commute times will DOUBLE (to 60 minutes) for people driving from Salmon Creek to the Fremont Bridge. Furthermore, they project that HALF of rush hour traffic will be traveling from zero to 20 MPH by 2045. And that is after spending $7.5 billion on the IBR and another $1.45 billion on the Rose Quarter project.
The IBR is fraught with problems, including the Coast Guard demanding 178 feet of clearance for marine traffic, 62 feet higher than currently proposed. Gov. Koteck has added to that long list of problems by indicating spending priorities do not include the IBR.
Oregon already has roughly a $2 billion funding shortfall on multiple transportation projects in the Portland Metro area. They include a $1 billion shortfall on the I-5 Rose Quarter project, and roughly $350 million shortage for the I-205 Abernethy Bridge project. Will the Oregon legislature try to find $3 billion or more in new taxes, to try and fund ODOT cost overruns and a replacement Interstate Bridge? Their 2017 $5.3 billion transportation package was supposed to fund 10 years of transportation priorities.
The recent revelation of $30 round trip tolls will cause serious issues of equity and fairness for hardworking low income families.
It’s long past time to put the final nail in the CRC coffin and start fresh. An entirely new Purpose and Need statement must focus on fixing traffic congestion problems in the Portland metro area. It’s been 40 years since new vehicle capacity was added in the region, via the I-205 corridor and bridge. Regional population has since doubled.
With Oregon refusing to widen I-5 and add through lanes to the Rose Quarter, the logical solution is a new west side bridge and transportation corridor. In 2008, the SW WA Regional Transportation Council (RTC) evaluated growth and identified the need for two new transportation corridors; one west of I-5 and another east of I-205. Planners and politicians have done nothing to plan for the identified needs identified 15 years ago.
Portland has a dozen bridges across the Willamette River. We need more than two bridges across the Columbia River. The people’s #1 transportation priority is reducing traffic congestion and saving time.