Category Archives: Media

RTC — Take a Stand Against Oregon’s TOLLING Scheme

Oregon legislators call for immediate TOLLING due to increased costs of ridiculous “community redevelopment” project, aka I-5 Rose Quarter Project

My remarks to the Feb. 4th Regional Transportation Council Board.

HERE.

My original remarks to the RTC regarding Oregon’s HB2017 were in June 2017, 2 1/1 years ago.

Nearly two years ago, I came before this body and discussed Oregon’s TOLLING legislation. I was stunned that it had NOT been discussed. Why wouldn’t my RTC Board want to be informed and to make input regarding that legislation?

Roughly 6 weeks later without input from the RTC, TOLLING “beginning at the border with Washington”, was passed by the Oregon legislature.

We had 74,000 Clark County citizens pay $221 million in Oregon income taxes in 2017. Another 44,000 “other” WA citizens paid $104 million, of which the majority were likely from Skamainia and Cowlitz Counties.

Now Oregon wants to pick the pockets of SW WA residents to pay even more, via their outrageous TOLLING scheme. Ultimately, Oregon wants to TOLL ALL highways and freeways in the Metro area, including I-5, I-205, I-84, I-405, US 26 & 217.

Even more incredible, is ODOT’s Rose Quarter proposal which adds NO new through lanes to I-5. It was originally $450 Million. HALF that money was going to “community redevelopment”, building two concrete lids over I-5 and a bike/pedestrian bridge.

Today the project has ballooned 70% to $795 million. There are calls to “beef up” the 2 concrete lids so real estate can be built on top, at an added cost of $200 – $500 million.

Oregon legislators want to IMMEDIATELY implement TOLLING in order to cover the increased costs rather than pull the plug on the “community redevelopment” parts.

SW WA citizens should NOT be funding Oregon’s “community redevelopment”. Transportation money should NOT be used to create real estate. WE here in SW WA should never pay for it. Will you come out against funding Oregon’s “community redevelopment”? Will you come out against Oregon’s TOLLING scheme?

As I have told you in the past, on Seattle’s I-405, fully 43% of TOLLING dollars go to the cost of collection. That is an outrageously expensive way to pay for transportation. The gas tax costs under 1% to collect.

TOLLING will cause HUGE numbers of people to divert onto side roads and into neighborhoods. ODOT told the TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee that 80,000 vehicles currently divert, due to the lack of vehicle capacity. If TOLLING is implemented on ALL of I-5 & I-205, an additional 50,000 vehicles would divert.

Think about that – 130,000 vehicle diversions is almost the number of vehicles that cross the Columbia River each day using the Interstate Bridge!  When Oregon imposes TOLLS on all area freeways, the number of diversions onto side roads and into neighborhoods will only increase, causing a huge nightmare for local families.

Take a stand against Oregon’s TOLLS!

Outrageous Rose Quarter Project Cost Up 70%

It’s Community Redevelopment, Not Transportation

From the beginning, the $450 million Rose Quarter project was a pork-barrel boondoggle. Fully HALF that price estimate was going to pay to create real estate — two concrete lids over I-5 and an outrageously expensive $30-$50 million bike/pedestrian bridge the bike community doesn’t want.

That means $225 million was the price of extending auxiliary lanes on I-5 for safety. Now ODOT is informing citizens the price tag is up roughly 70 percent.

ODOT told citizens the project will not improve traffic congestion because they are not adding new I-5 through lanes. “We fully admit that this isn’t going to eliminate congestion at the Rose Quarter,” said ODOT’s Travis Brouwer.

Multiple Portland politicians told citizens it was a “community redevelopment” project. “If somebody came to me and said, ‘Ted, do you want to spend half a billion on a freeway expansion?’, I say, ‘No and hell no,’” Mayor Ted Wheeler said at a 2017 City Council hearing. “But that’s not what this is.” (OPB)

Scarce transportation dollars should not be spent on community redevelopment. “If Portland wants to put lids and all that kind of stuff on freeways . . . we’re not paying for it,” said Sen. Lee Beyer recently. “That’s a local decision, local desire … It’s not part of the state highway system.” (OPB).

Now ODOT is fibbing again. They blame “inflation” on the cost ballooning nearly 70%, from $450 million the legislature approved in 2017, to $795 million. That’s pure BS.

Inflation is running between 2% & 3%. The time frame for building the project is only eight years after legislative approval. Inflation would increase the $450 million price to $527 million @ 2%, or $605 million @ 3%. Heads should roll at ODOT for the mismanagement and deception in this debacle.

Finally, the entire HB2017 package was $5.3 Billion. How many of those projects had no inflation calculated?

The original $450 million Rose Quarter project was 8.5% of total transportation spending authorized. Now at $795 million, that equals 15% of total spending. If the “community redevelopment” activists get their way the $1 BILLION plus expenditure could equal 20% or more of total HB2017 spending.

In fact some real estate and “community activists” are pushing to beef up the lids to support 7-15 story buildings. That would add $200 million to $500 million to the price tag on top of the $795 million.

The rest of the state should be outraged and pull the plug on this unacceptable “community redevelopment” project. Our transportation dollars are vitally needed elsewhere!

Taxpayers should put this in context. The 2018 PEMCO survey reported 94% of Northwest citizens want to use their privately owned vehicles.

An April 2019 Oregon Transportation Commission survey found 51% of citizens want to “expand and improve interstates and interstate bridges.” Another 14% want expanded arterials. (OTC).

Metro’s 2019 poll showed people’s top priority is roads and highways. The Portland Tribune summarized: “On its own, improving public transit is a lower priority than making road improvements and the more overarching goal of easing traffic — voters still overwhelmingly rely on driving alone to get around,” reads the poll’s conclusions.

Citizens want point-to-point service in either privately owned vehicles or Lyft/Uber vehicles. Uber and Lyft now carry more people than Seattle’s Sound Transit light rail. (Seattle Times).

Use the $450 million to expand metro area roads and freeways; use it to build new transportation corridors. It’s been 40 years since a new transportation corridor was built: Interstate 205. Serve the people and their transportation needs and desires.

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REFERENCES

The original proposal, as shown in an ODOT graphic.

It has now morphed into a real estate developer’s dream. Note all the 7 to 15 story buildings in glass on the right (east) side.

The January 2020 ODOT report indicates the following is the “purpose” of the Rose Quarter project.

PROJECT PURPOSE
The purpose of the Project is to improve the safety and operations on I-5 between I-405 and I-84, and within the I-5 Broadway/Weidler interchange. In support of this purpose, the Project will improve local connectivity and multimodal access in the vicinity of the Broadway/Weidler interchange, and improve multimodal connections between neighborhoods located to the east and west of I-5.”

I-5 safety and congestion – The segment of I-5 between I-405 and I-84 incurs 3.5 times more crashes than the statewide average and has some of the highest traffic volumes in the state (12 hours of congestion each day). The Project’s auxiliary lanes and wider safety shoulders will reduce frequent crashes and save drivers nearly 2.5 million hours of vehicle delay each year.

Here is ODOT’s graphic showing the “before and after” of the Auxiliary Lanes that will allegedly cost 55% of the project, or $442 million. (ODOT)

The 2019 METRO transportation poll indicated the majority of people still rely on their cars to get around. Here it shows 88%!

When I-205 opened, it provided a decade of traffic congestion relief on I-5. Here are the numbers.

 

TOLLING: “Not so fast!”

Trying to stop TOLLS in Oregon before they start

KOIN news reports on citizens effort to stop TOLLS on I-5, I-205, and other Oregon roads, unless VOTERS give their approval first. Julie Parish is interviewed.

ODOT’s Don Hamilton tries to “spin” the possible negative impacts, “if” the TOLLING initiative (IP-10) is passed. It’s pure BS.

There are already 80,000 vehicles already diverting on to side roads today. The TOLLING Policy Advisory Committee was told an additional 50,000 vehicles would divert to avoid the TOLLS, if tolling were implemented on all of I-5 and I-205 in the Portland Metro area. That’s 130,000 vehicles diverting INTO neighborhoods and the side roads that are already overcrowded. But ODOT won’t discuss that aspect of the TOLLING.

Want to STOP the TOLLING until the people have a vote? Click HERE to go the the Vote on Tolls website.

Washington is getting plenty of money from gas tax

Letter to the editor: Washington is getting plenty of money from gas tax

By John Ley/Camas — Jan 21, 2020 — The Reflector

The 18th Legislative District representatives recently held three town hall events. Sen. Ann Rivers and Reps. Brandon Vick and Larry Hoff pride themselves in the number of town hall events they hold for the people to make input and express concerns.

At the Jan. 4 Camas-Washougal town hall, taxes and transportation were at the top of citizens comments and concerns. One woman stated with I-976 ($30 car tabs), the government will lose money and needs new taxes to fund road and bridge repairs. She believed transportation dollars are declining due to cars getting better mileage and electric and hybrid vehicles not paying gas taxes.

Rep. Brandon Vick agreed responding: “We recognize the gas tax revenues will keep going down,” and, “the pots going to run dry sooner rather than later.”

Sen. Rivers and Rep. Hoff didn’t say otherwise.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Washington’s 49.4-cent gas tax is the third highest in the nation. Total transportation dollars the Legislature spends is at an all time high. So are gas tax revenues.

(Washington state document showing TOTAL transportation revenues)

Transportation revenues show roughly $2.5 billion from 1999 to 2001 and an estimate of nearly $7 billion in 2025 to 2027. More specifically, a separate Legislature document shows gas tax revenues at $1.23 billion in 2010 and $1.83 billion in 2019, with a forecast of $1.87 billion in 2021.

There is no “shortage” of taxpayer money.

The issue regarding poor road and bridge maintenance is how the Legislature allocates dollars. We pay double or triple the price for ferry boats due to a “must be built in Washington” requirement. We have the nation’s largest ferry system. The Legislature allocates significant money toward Puget Sound mass transit projects and flawed WSDOT designed projects like the 520 floating bridge pontoons that leaked. Prevailing wage and excessive environmental requirements add significant costs.

Rep. Vick later stated on social media: “Our forecasts clearly show that gas tax revenue will decrease due in large part to more fuel-efficient vehicles. A risk of a live event. What remains true is that the gas tax is not a viable long-term funding source for future transportation projects.”

Rivers claimed I was “cherry-picking data.” Not so — I use state data. Electric and hybrid cars are about 3 percent of vehicles.

One might be tempted to think inflation is the culprit. Nope. Inflation 2003-2019 means 28 cent gas tax becomes 39 cents; 1993-2019 means 23 cents becomes 43 cents; and 1981-2019 means 13.5 cents becomes 40 cents. Our 49.4 cent gas tax has more than kept up with inflation. The Legislature rarely hesitates to raise gas taxes when they need money.

The gas tax is the most efficient means of collecting transportation funds — a 1 percent cost of collection. Tolling on Seattle’s I-405 consumes 43 percent in collection costs.

The bottom line — our state is getting plenty of taxpayer money from gas taxes.

Our elected representatives need to communicate accurate information to the people. We don’t need new taxes!

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REFERENCES

The short version of Rep. Vick’s response to citizen — “the gas tax revenue will continue to go down”.

(Video excerpt from Lacamas Magazine video. Full length may be viewed here.

(Washington state graphic provided by Senator Rivers)

(Graphic WA State Auditor 2014 with added highlights/remarks)

NOTE: “basic road maintenance” spending declined over the 25 year period shown above.

 

(March 2017 state document showing gas tax revenues by source from FY 2010 to 2012)

The graphic below shows I-405 (Puget Sound) TOLLING has a 43% cost of collection. The graphic created by WSDOT in their 2018 Tolling Division Annual Report.

Lars: Doubling the price of the Rose Quarter project

ODOT increased the size of the “lid” being proposed at the Rose Quarter, to accommodate real estate

On Thursday, Lars Larson returned from his Christmas vacation. When he mentioned the traffic problems in the Portland metro area, that was my opportunity to call in.

Take a listen.

 

The original plan was going to waste about HALF the $450 million price tag to build TWO concrete lids over I-5, plus a $30-50 million bike/pedestrian bridge. Portland politicians talked about the project being “community redevelopment” when HB 2017 was passed. ODOT’s plan was also going to eliminate the Flint St. overpass & relocate an on ramp. See the ODOT graphic below.

In December, the local press reported that ODOT had a revised proposal. This time the estimated cost is $795 million. They would significantly increase the size of the concrete lid, making it one, very expensive piece of real estate.

Here is ODOT’s graphic.

Note all the multiple story “glass” proposed or possible buildings on the right side (east) of I-5.

At a community Open House over a year ago, an ODOT engineer told me they needed to do the two lids (versus one) because of federal highway air handling requirements. One large lid would create a “tunnel”, and therefore require expensive air handling equipment to be added.

So now, the politicians have persuaded ODOT to modify the $450 million proposal, to build a $795 million piece of real estate.

Understand that in the original proposal, only about HALF or $225 million, was the cost of the auxiliary lane extensions on I-5, that were going to improve vehicle safety and reduce accidents. Citizens should be outraged that their gas tax dollars and vehicle registration fees are going to create real estate, in lieu of improving congestion and reducing commute times.

ODOT has told citizens this project will NOT improve traffic congestion. That is because they are not adding new through lanes to I-5 at the Rose Quarter. They’re simply extending “auxiliary lanes” and relocating on/off ramps. They are adding zero new capacity for vehicles.

Willamette Week reported the increase on Christmas day here.

They did a follow up story, (here) interviewing ODOT officials where ODOT blames “inflation”. I throw the BS flag on “inflation” because (1) inflation was figured into the original project, and (2) no way would inflation DOUBLE the cost in the next 5 years.