Category Archives: Media

Bi-State Bridge Committee: Please fix traffic congestion

Joint Oregon Washington committee restarts bridge discussions

The Oct. 25th meeting of the Bi-State Bridge Committee had its second meeting (first one Dec. 2018). Here is my 2-minute testimony.

The entire meeting can be viewed at the link below.


The ODOT & WSDOT briefing continued to mislead the committee and citizens, regarding certain aspects of the failed CRC project. They reported the cost of the bridge was $1.2 Billion. Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch scrutinized all the CRC spending. She reported the actual cost of the bridge was $791 million.

I told the committee (and the WSDOT/ODOT staff) reporting false numbers is wrong — “that has to stop if you’re going to be transparent”.

There were several other good comments, as some legislators indicated we needed to fix the traffic congestion problems. Many citizen comments indicated transit, especially light rail, should take a back seat to fixing traffic congestion. Others indicated Bus Rapid Transit should be included.

Representative Vicki Kraft was not a member of the committee. She offered some excellent and very appropriate comments during the “public comments” period. Rep.  Kraft testifies in favor of a 3rd bridge to reduce traffic congestion for commuters and freight community at Bi-State Bridge Committee.

From a news report: “There were also calls to place a greater emphasis on easing congestion. Washington Rep. Vicki Kraft questioned why the issue was not among the committee’s foundational principles.”

From news reports:

There was an immediate disagreement over the first principle on the list, which in its draft form read “Designate the replacement of the I-5 Interstate Bridge as the primary goal.”

Oregon state Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, Ore., objected to the word “designate,” arguing that it gave the impression that the committee had already settled on a replacement bridge as the only goal. Oregon state Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Salem, Ore., agreed, stating that the primary goal should be to address congestion issues.

The group eventually approved a new phrasing suggested by Oregon state Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, Ore.: “Discuss the replacement of the I-5 Interstate Bridge.”

Another news report included discussions of mass transit being a “solution” to traffic congestion problems. From Clark County Today‘s report:

While the group’s foundational principles, as well as the governors of both Oregon and Washington, have said light rail or some other mass transit component must be part of any new bridge, some have argued that doing so is a waste of resources.

“Only 1,422 people use any of the seven express bus lines, that C-TRAN offers into Portland,” noted John Ley of Camas. “That’s a rounding error of the 310,000 vehicles that cross.”

Ley noted a recent survey by Pemco Insurance of drivers in Oregon and Washington, in which 94 percent said they prefer to drive to work each day.

Other citizens called for the committee to take the divisive light rail off the list of considerations immediately.

Transportation architect Kevin Peterson scrutinized all the CRC traffic data. He shared with citizens the fact that due to significant numbers of people getting on to I-5 south of the Interstate Bridge, we need 3-4 additional lanes in each direction at the Rose Quarter, beyond the number of lanes crossing the Columbia River.  Kevin: “this is a 12-14 lane freeway passing thru the Rose Quarter.”

Furthermore, he reported CRC data indicated the need for 8 lanes in each direction crossing the Columbia River by 2060.

Will this Bi-state Bridge Committee actually direct ODOT & WSDOT to focus on fixing traffic congestion problems?  Citizens on both sides of the river are getting more and more frustrated at the failure of transportation officials to solve the real congestion problems by adding vehicle capacity and building new transportation corridors.



Is the Interstate Bridge Safe?

Yes. Read about it, and the 150 year old Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River in St. Louis, here.

The ODOT & WSDOT leaders continue propagating the lie that in the CRC, the cost of the bridge was $1.2 Billion. In fact it was $791 million according to a forensic accountant who scrutinized all the CRC financial data. The CRC was loaded with pork barrel spending and improperly allocated expenses.


Transit ridership continues to decline on both sides of the Columbia River.

Pemco surveyed people in both Oregon & Washington — 94% of people prefer their private vehicles for speed and convenience.




Mega projects go Mega over budget

 The “iron law” of megaprojects: over time, over budget, over and over again

Following the financial nightmare of the Columbia River Crossing, citizens thought they had dodged a $3.5 Billion bullet. They thought they had dodged $8 each way, $2,000 per year in TOLLS. Sadly, the CRC is being resurrected by special interest driven politicians.

The Columbian reported part of the story and got an unexpected email from Bent Flyvbjerg in ENGLAND at the University of Oxford! You can read the complete news report here.

“Flyvbjerg is a professor at Oxford’s Saïd Business School who developed the “iron law” of megaprojects: over time, over budget, over and over again.”

“Flyvbjerg provided a link to “Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval,” a 2005 article he penned for Harvard Design Magazine.

It’s a compelling read. Megaprojects that get built are not the best projects but ones that underestimate costs and environmental impacts and overestimate benefits and revenues.

“Many project proponents don’t hesitate to use this approach, even if it means misleading lawmakers, the public and the media about the true costs and benefits of projects,” Flyvbjerg wrote. “This result is an inverted Darwinism — an unhealthy ‘survival of the unfittest’ — for large public works and other construction projects.”

The Washington legislature has funded $35 million to reopen the former CRC’s Project Office for two years. That’s three quarters of what we would have to repay the federal government if we simply walked away, and started fresh. Instead, WSDOT & ODOT were given five years to finish a “replacement Interstate Bridge” project and begin breaking ground.

What we need are 3rd and 4th bridges across the Columbia River, not a replacement of the existing old, but SAFE Interstate Bridge structures. You can read more about the safety issues here.

Presently, Oregon’s JPACT (similar to our Regional Transportation Council – RTC), has three separate items in their 2040 transportation plans. All represent a resurrected CRC, including light rail, for a total of $4.1 Billion of our tax dollars.

And of course they want SW Washington citizens to pay a huge share of that cost, via TOLLS on all the Portland area freeways, beginning at the border with Washington.

and the light rail component for $850 million.

and then an $80 million separate bridge connecting Hayden Island with Delta Park.

Keep in mind that a local forensic accountant scrutinized all the CRC’s financial transactions, reporting that the cost of the actual bridge was just $792 million. The rest of the $3.5 Billion CRC boondoggle was light rail and pork barrel spending, all wrapped into one package.

SW Washington citizens need to rise up and say NO! to a “Mega project”. Professor Flyvbjerg from Oxford has warned us. It will be “over time, over budget, over and over again.

Lars talks Camas $78 million pool bond

Lars & John discuss the $78 million pool and rec center bond

Or you can here more below.

Click on the green “play” button. Once it starts, click on the green bar near the end, to start listening at 1:25:08 into the show.

Build a simple bridge, no tolls required

$3.5 billion for a ONE minute improvement in traffic congestion?

Build a simple bridge for under $1 billion — tolls not required!

The Reflector published my letter – here.

Portland has our nation’s 10th worst traffic congestion. Now that we have five years to design and begin construction of a new bridge, we must fix the traffic congestion. But there are a multitude of issues to be addressed.

Washington and Oregon have five more years to break ground replacing the Interstate 5 bridge, avoiding a requirement to pay back $140 million spent on the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Oregon owes $93.3 million and Washington owes $46.1 million.

The Reflector reported: “A restart of environmental review in spring 2020, a completed review and the start of acquiring right-of-way for the project in the summer of 2023, and beginning construction by summer 2025.”

Yet, Sen. Ann Rivers told citizens “there is no project” last December at the Bi-State Bridge Committee meeting. Now, less than a year later, officials must begin engineering and an environmental review in a matter of months. What will they be engineering and environmentally reviewing if there is no specific project?

The 10-lane, failed CRC bridge offered only a one-minute improvement in the morning southbound commute. How much time must the undefined “replacement” bridge save commuters? The real bottleneck on I-5 is the two-lane, two-mile section at the Rose Quarter.

The failed CRC was a “light rail project in search of a bridge,” adding $850 million to the cost of “the bridge too low.” Will special interests force light rail on Clark County?

The failed CRC was laden with pork-barrel spending. There was millions for a TriMet headquarters; an upgrade to Portland’s Steel Bridge; an overpriced expansion of TriMet’s Gresham maintenance facility, and even something in Hood River. A noted forensic accountant revealed the real cost of the CRC bridge was $792 million, not the $3.5 billion boondoggle.

Why are Washington legislators spending $35 million to avoid “repayment” of $46 million? That’s three quarters of what’s owed. That’s just the first two years cost, with double that likely for the ensuing two to three years when ground “may” be broken.

What are the specific details of the unnamed project? Oregon already has $80 million in its transportation plans for a separate bridge off Hayden Island. On and off ramps at Hayden Island aren’t required if vehicles can exit 1 mile south at Delta Park. Oregon has a lift span planned for the BNSF rail bridge, eliminating the need for 95 percent of Interstate Bridge lifts.

What are the requirements and who are giving them? How much must traffic congestion be improved? One minute was outrageous for the CRC’s $3.5 billion price. How high must the bridge be for river traffic? Will any project require Oregon to add multiple through lanes to I-5 at the two-lane Rose Quarter?

A third and fourth bridge are truly needed to relieve traffic congestion. A $1 billion very basic bridge would allow precious funds to go towards a third bridge.

Will Oregon step up and solve traffic congestion problems on all of I-5, including the Rose Quarter? Build a simple $800 million bridge. Tolls not required!



Of the nearly $200 million spent on the failed CRC, both states spent federal transportation dollars. If they build nothing, they have to pay it back.

(Graphic courtesy of Oregonian).

CRC Budget Discrepancies

The CRC project office published bad cost numbers, miss-allocating costs. A local forensic accountant reviewed reams of data and provided the following — the actual cost of the Interstate Bridge in the CRC was $408 million LESS than advertised.

In fact, the fudging of numbers was spread among several CRC’s major components.

(Both graphics taken from the Acuity Forensics reports on the CRC.)

Bi-state Bridge Committee 

From the Dec. 2018 Bi-state Bridge Committee meeting hosted by Washington state legislators.

WSDOT staff gave the legislators and citizens attending the Bi-state Bridge Committee meeting a high level review. It included the following slide.

(Graphic courtesy of WSDOT).

Portland Metro’s JPACT future plans

The Portland Metro regional transportation organization is JPACT. (Similar to our RTC). Here are graphics showing JPACT’s future plans which total over $4 Bill. This includes funding for a separate bridge connecting Hayden Island to Delta Park, and an upgrade to the BNSF rail bridge inserting a lift span.

$3.169 billion for a replacement I-5 bridge.

This shows the separate bridge connecting Hayden Island to Delta Park for $80 million.

BNSF rail bridge “lift span” is proposed for $35.5 million. The lift will match one installed on the exact same BNSF rail line as it crossed the Willamette River.

This shows the inclusion of “high capacity transit” on Metro’s plans for a new Interstate Bridge. At $850 million, it can only be light rail, as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) would cost a fraction of the price.


TriMet’s Green Line Under-delivers at 10th Anniversary

Like Other MAX Projects, TriMet’s Green Line Underdelivers at 10th Anniversary

My thanks to the Cascade Policy Institute for continuing to research and shine the light of day on TriMet, light rail, and mass transit. The original story is here.

By Rachel Dawson

TriMet has proven time and again that it is unable to live up to past promises. The MAX Green Line, which first opened 10 years ago, is no exception.

The Green Line is fifteen miles long and runs along I-205 from Portland State University to the Clackamas Town Center (CTC). It began as a portion of the North-South light rail alignment, which was canceled in 1988 after failing to secure voter funding. TriMet attempted to scale the alignment down to run from North Portland to the CTC, but the project was again rejected by voters in 1996 and 1998.

The plan for light rail to the CTC was later resurrected in 2001, and planning for the Green Line commenced in concert with the more recently implemented Orange Line to Milwaukie.

The alignment eventually earned federal approval in 2006. Of the total $575.7 million price tag, $478.2 million came from the federal government, $23 million came from the state, and $74.5 million came from local jurisdictions.

Of the local match, $69 million came from the City of Portland, $39.3 million from Clackamas County (the majority of which came from the county’s urban renewal funds), $23 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation, $20.5 million from TriMet, and $6.2 million from land donation and other funds.

Green line ridership “is just over 16,000 average daily riders in August 2019, making up only 34% of the FEIS’s predicted ridership levels”

The Green Line has failed to live up to these promised expectations:

Ridership is lower than projected. When the Federal Transit Administration completed its 2015 “Before and After Study” on the line, there was an average 24,000 daily weekday boarding rides. This is well below the 30,400 riders that TriMet predicted at entry into preliminary engineering for the line’s opening year. That number has continued to decrease to just over 16,000 average daily riders in August 2019, making up only 34% of the FEIS’s predicted ridership levels for 2025. With five years to go until 2025, it seems unlikely that the Green Line will garner the 30,500 riders needed to hit TriMet’s promised level of 46,500 boarding rides.

The line has lower frequency than promised. Trains arrive at stations every 15 minutes during peak periods and every 35 minutes at other times of the day. TriMet promised trains would arrive every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 during other times. TriMet attempted to blame this low level of service on a decline in tax revenues during the recession, but train frequency has not increased since the economy has recovered. Furthermore, TriMet’s total operating and non-operating revenues increased from 2009 to 2018 by 54%, and revenue from payroll and other taxes increased by 71%. The payroll tax rate will continue to go up every year until 2024, although it appears the Green Line’s level of service won’t increase with it.

Instead of the promised passengers, light rail brought increased crime to the CTC area. Clackamas County experienced heightened crime in the corridor from 2009-2012 after the Green Line opened and an increase in graffiti around MAX stops, according to a survey by the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program sent to the Clackamas County Sheriff.

Unsurprisingly, the line’s cost was higher than TriMet originally anticipated. The final price tag of $576 million was 14% greater than the anticipated cost in preliminary engineering, a difference of about $70 million.

TriMet is now planning for a 12-mile line from downtown Portland to Tigard. Elected officials from Tualatin, Tigard, Durham, and Washington County should take a sobering look at TriMet’s track record on the Green Line, the Yellow Line, and WES. It shows a consistent pattern of over-promising and under-performing. Given this history, TriMet’s projections for the SW Corridor project should not be trusted.

Rachel Dawson is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.


Added references

TriMet MAX light rail yearly traffic with start dates of four MAX lines.

(Federal Transit Administration graphic, with my addition of Red, Yellow, Green, and Orange light rail line start dates.)

TriMet bus ridership numbers: