Coast Guard Says CRC Design Still A Problem

Last week, proponents of the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project told a legislative oversight committee that the project is aiming at applying for a $850 million of federal money, from a transportation called New Starts, to cover much of the cost of the light rail portion of the project.

In the presentation to lawmakers, they made a few things clear. First, to apply for the federal money, they need to have commitments of $450 million each from Oregon and Washington. Lawmakers in both states have been skittish about the project, which is built on traffic and tolling assumptions that other independent studies have savaged.

"Legislature needs to act in early 2013 to meet FTA [federal New Starts] eligibility," the CRC timeline says.

But the timeline shows proponents want to force lawmakers to vote on spending $450 million long before an investment grade analysis is done. Such an analysis is a full, independent scrub of the numbers done for potential lenders and won't be finished until December 2013.

But the Coast Guard looked at the CRC's plan for "resolution" and didn't agree.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral K.A. Taylor said in a letter (PDF)—that was not included in the presentation to lawmakers—that the CRC's expectation of when the height issue will get resolved is unrealistic.

The Coast Guard continues to insist that CRC researchers failed to count the number of commercial vessels using the river accurately.