By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
VANCOUVER – As the Columbia River Crossing project speeds through the Oregon Legislature, opponents are not giving up the fight.
Three local experts who have spent countless hours researching and testifying on the many questions, flaws and issues surrounding the $3.4 billion (likely more than that) project, held a forum Monday night in Vancouver with the hope of shedding some light on the project for the many citizens who are clearly concerned.
More than 200 people showed up to the Skyview High School auditorium for the facts forum and many had questions on how they could advocate to stop the massive infrastructure project that would build a new Interstate-5 bridge from Portland to Vancouver.
“There’s just a lot of things going on here that we’re not talking about,” Founder and Principal of Acuity Group PLLC Tiffany Couch said. Couch, a CPA in Vancouver, has spent the past couple of years, at the request of a private citizen, pouring over documents – about 30,000 lines of raw data – provided by Columbia River Crossing officials.
Couch, along with John Charles, president and CEO of Cascade Policy and Joe Cortright, principal economist for Impresa, presented findings on CRC during the forum. Couch said the real cost of the CRC project is skewed and looks more like $5.5 billion when you add in interest, maintenance and the cost of operating tolls on the bridge.
Charles argues the light rail component of the project doesn’t make sense. He said the 2.9 mile extension of light rail is much slower and more expensive – $321 million per mile – than the already existing express buses that run the same route now.
“What exactly is the problem we’re trying to solve today,” he said.
Cortright said the federal money being sought for the project is, at best, a major risk and at worse, non-existent. He says Washington and Oregon taxpayers will be on the hook for shortfalls and overruns – as they have with other state transportation projects.
“It has to get paid for it in some way,” he said. The project hinges on more than $1 billion in federal money.
The Oregon House voted 45-11 Monday in favor of spending $450 million on the project if certain conditions – like the federal money and a match from Washington state coming through – are met. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation soon.