The CRC: Who's Getting Rich?

The Oregon Senate is preparing to approve the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing project next week. As WW reported in our recent cover story about the lobbying effort behind the bridge, the project has racked up $165 million in costs to date.

The project has been financed by funds from both Washington and Oregon along with federal grant money. 

We took a closer look at the money to see who’s made the most (and the road bumps they’ve faced) on the way to the bank.

The lead contractor on the project, David Evans and Associates, has already pocketed almost $40 million, about 30 percent of all dollars paid out to CRC subcontractors and consultants. That’s double the cost of their initial contract in 2005. David Evans’ contract has ballooned significantly since, from $50 million to over $105 million.

Early on, engineering and construction conglomerate Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) hired former Governor Neil Goldschmidt, who lobbied then-Governor Ted Kulongoski to push for the project. Since coming aboard, PB and its subsidiary have earned over $21 million.

Washington engineering firm Parametrix was brought on board to head work on the environmental impact statement, a federally mandated study to showcase the CRC’s impact on the Columbia River area and offer alternatives to problems. The statement estimated that traffic levels across the river would soar over the next two decades. Actual levels since then have not met those estimates. They have even dropped in recent years. Parametrix has made almost $15 million from their work.

In 2006, Northwest-based PR firm Enviroissues hired the communications director of Washington’s department of transportation. Amount earned so far: almost $8.7 million.

HDR Engineering’s main task has been to manage planning for the bridge part of the CRC, which overall will renovate Interstate 5 over a five-mile stretch. To date, HDR has been paid $6.2 million. Earlier designs of the main span across the Columbia had the bridge’s height at 95 feet, which the Coast Guard have said would be too low. After adding 21 feet of clearance to the bridge—and $30 million to it’s cost—the new proposed height still isn’t tall enough for some important manufacturers along the river, who stand to lose millions in profits as a result.

The CRC hired David Parisi, a California based traffic consultant, and paid the rent for his Pearl District apartment. They have also paid Parisi $1.45 million for his work so far.

Along with PB, Stantec was tasked with providing revenue estimates from bridge tolling. CRC organizers expected tolls to recoup about $1.3 billion of project costs. A 2011 review of those projections by State Treasurer Ted Wheeler showed they were overconfident by at least $500 million. Since coming on, Statntec has made $950,000.

Patricia McCaig—who is playing both sides of the ball as the governor’s top aide on the CRC and a paid consultant for David Evans—has been paid $417,000.

Tom Markgraf’s firm, Markgraf & Associates, was hired in 2005 to do public outreach and communications before the arrival of McCaig in 2009. Former Metro President David Bragdon said Markgraf couldn’t give specific answers to his questions about the project. Markgraf left the project after 2010 after his role was phased out. His son, Peter, is still employed though, earning $177,000 since the beginning of 2011 to prepare monthly reports to the Federal Transit Authority and other project committees.

Other top earners include: 

Shannon and Wilson, geotechnical and environmental consulting firm: $4,679,613 

CH2M Hill, engineering, design, construction and operation corporation: $3,416,135 

Heritage Research, archaeological research and historic evaluation services: $2,298,158 

ZGF Architects: $1,646,511 

Siegal Consulting, finance planning: $1,541,388


WWeek 2015

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