Washington is setting up its southern neighbors to hold the funding bag when money for the Columbia River Crossing falls short, incoming Metro Councilor Bob Stacey says.
In a four-page memo to his soon-to-be fellow council members obtained by WW, Stacey blasts funding plans for the controversial $3.5 billion megaproject to replace Interstate 5's bridges, add light rail to Vancouver and expand freeways north and south of the Columbia River.
The well-known land-use activist and former director of 1000 Friends of Oregon has long been a critic of the CRC. But he says that beyond the massive scale and likely impacts to neighborhoods, Oregon taxpayers shouldn't be exposed to avoidable financial risk.
Stacey outlines several places where the Metro council should lobby the Oregon Legislature as it mulls CRC funding in early 2013.
- Toll Interstate 205: "If Oregon consents to Washington's plan to toll only 1-5, the result will not only be a big hole in the CRC project budget, but major traffic and livability impacts on the 1-205 and 1-84 corridors on this side of the river," Stacey writes. "Oregon should make its financial contribution to the CRC contingent on Washington agreeing to toll both crossings of the Columbia River."
- Fight restrictions the Washington Legislature imposed when it approved tolling I-5 in 2012. The additions to the tolling bill in Washington include a project cost cap of $3.41 billion; no tolls until federal and state funds are committed to construct the bridge and its landings; and a sunset of the legislation at the end of 2015 if federal funding is not secured or other conditions are not met. "Taken together, the conditions Washington has placed on its financial participation in the CRC protect Washington to Oregon's potentially severe financial disadvantage," Stacey writes.
- The Oregon Legislature should put its own limitations in its funding plans.Stacey writes the state government should say that any initial phase of the CRC must include transit, active transportation, and the Oregon-side road improvements; a community enhancement and mitigation fund; tolling both the 1-5 and 1-205 crossings; and capping Oregon's contribution at $450 million. Funding shortfalls or project cost over-runs must be covered by toll revenue, not by Oregon taxpayers.
"If our legislature fails to impose its own deal terms as part of a funding approval in 2013, ODOT will find itself outgunned in any future agency-to-agency negotiations with WSDOT over cost responsibility or minimum project elements," Stacey finishes.