CRC: Sacrifices real solution for sake of light rail

Jeff Kruse

Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

To expand light rail that most don’t want, CRC won’t solve real problem and will incur future debt and give us a toll bridge

This week the Oregon House passed HB 2800, which is the bonding bill for the new bridge over the Columbia River called Columbia River Crossing (CRC). In my last newsletter I questioned how such a massive borrowing bill could be passed without going to the budget committee, and I think this is still a real issue. Unfortunately the wheels have been greased and this bill will be coming up for a vote in the Senate on Monday and more than likely it will pass. I will be opposing this measure.

Why this project, at this location, at this time? The answer is very simple, light rail and the federal dollars specifically designated for light rail. Over the last eight years we have spent a couple hundred million dollars studying this concept. Originally the scope of potential solutions covered a rather large geography with many options, but in the end the current option was the only one that could accommodate light rail. Light rail works very well in areas with dense populations, but doesn’t really fit in Oregon. One can observe the commuter trains we already have and the fact they usually run half full. The form of mass transit that works best for our region are buses, not trains. It would also appear the majority of people in both Washington and Oregon are opposed to this project, but we are going ahead with it any way.

Two options I might have been able to support actually called for an additional bridge rather than a replacement. One would have been to build a bridge significantly west of the current bridge to potentially connect into Longview, Washington as a freight route to benefit the ports. Another would have been to build a local access bridge to divert the local Portland to Vancouver traffic, which is currently about 70% of the load. Unfortunately neither of these options would have included light rail.

The inclusion of light rail also will have another negative impact. Due to the height requirements to accommodate the train several businesses upstream from the current bridge will no longer be able to get their products down the river. By law river traffic is supposed to be the first priority, but in this case we will just displace these businesses and spend a couple hundred million to relocate them.

Simply stated I don’t think this replacement bridge will solve the congestion problem. It will just move the “pinch point” to the area around the Rose Quarter and there is no plan currently to solve that problem and I doubt we would have the money anyway because of the debt we are taking on for this project. This brings up another issue, and that is what impact this will have on our ability to finance other projects around the state. I don’t have a clear answer to this question.

We will, however, have our first toll bridge. We are told the toll we will now be paying will finance a portion of the debt. The people of California were told the same thing about the Golden Gate Bridge, and 70 years later it still hasn’t happened.

I know a lot of people have put a great amount of time and energy into this project, and they may truly believe this is the right thing to do. They do say there will be frequent updates to the Legislature on the various portions of the project, but the reality is once it is started it won’t be stopped. We are simply putting a significant amount of future debt on Oregonians for a project that will not solve the real problem all for a light rail system most people don’t want.

  • Bob Clark

    This Senator is spot on. Portland’s brand of commuter train is also woefully slow compared to other systems like those of Paris, New York and Chicago. Portland can’t replicate these systems as they would be tremendously expensive for the population base.
    The light rail money from the federal government is almost like getting offered a free fruit cake. It’s better than a lump of coal, but not a whole lot better. As for the federal government: How about saving the fruit cakes, and eventually giving us an IPad instead. Or better yet, just let us keep our tax monies here locally since you are diverting them to buying us fruit cake like items.

  • marvinmcconoughey

    The most amazing, yet consistent, fact about Oregon politics is the failure of the system to respect citizens. The CRC is opposed by Oregonians by a plurality, the opposition is well-known to political leaders, yet they will vote for an extremely costly transportation project that will impose toll fees on both citizens and visitors. The same mind set is evident here as was observed in Washington State when its leaders became obsessed with creating a nuclear power plant. We ordinary citizens are held in contempt.

  • zanzara2041

    All government employees should have to take an IQ test with extra emphasis on logical, rational ability to reason through economic realities. What part of failing economy, job loss and manufacturing moving overseas to more favorable governments is so hard to understand? Why build bridges when you can’t manage to allow people to start up a business without burdening them with layers and layers and layers of rules, fines, licenses, fees, regulations, inspections and limitations upon limitations and heaps of tax predation sucking the life out of any and all ambition?

  • At his constituent coffee this morning, Representative Tobias Read (Dem — HD27) spelled out a number of reasons why it has been so expensive to plan and why we need to approve the bill. Tobias explained his arguments better than I can.

    The CRC has to accommodate two nearby airports, various water freight considerations, traffic patterns, etc. Also, to get the Federal dollars, we need to move forward now. Also, the CRC is being planned to serve the needs of two large growing communities for at least six decades to come.

    With their crystal ball intact, the CRC proponents are arguing that light rail will become increasingly more popular in the future with increasing population densities. At the moment, light rail is serving the needs of the petty criminals fairly well. I’ll stick with my car, thank you very much.

    Part of Tobias’ argument was that after 14 years of planning, without any construction, it was better to get some of the projections wrong and sort the problems out later than to miss out on the opportunity of Federal dollars now.
    [And, now’s a good time, while we’re Blue, Woo Hoo! (my rejoiner)]

    Finally, the planning commission is overestimating costs, with a 90% chance that the CRC will not meet or exceed the projected 3.5 billion dollar price tag.

    I’m wondering, if anyone considered the idea of tunneling? If the big earthquake is the main consideration, I suspect it would knock out the bridge just as easily, and with more life lost. Of course, the metal from the bridge could be salvaged…The possibilities are endless.

    • Ja voul

      Make way for Segway aerial-botics, the ultimate answer for putting MAX into indeterminate arrest.

    • marvinmcconoughey

      I don’t know about the supposedly inflated cost estimates. Is there a link to more information on that? Regarding, “Also, to get the Federal dollars, we need to move forward now,” that is one of the negative economic externalities of having pass-through federal dollars involved. Decisions are made based on handouts rather than their intrinsic merits. Thus, the CRC cannot be allowed to be reviewed by the legislative budget committee because it would slow the process down? If so, that is bad leadership, bad management, and abuse of the public’s right to know, all wrapped up in one clear example of failed legislative leadership.

  • Blomsoy

    Thank you, Sen. Kruse, for being a Voice of Reason in the herd
    of political critters. This herd is doing what they always
    do, spend money, in lieu of what they ought to do,
    cut expenses. The latter being much harder for them
    as they would be met by loud opposition from their
    equally dumbed-down voter base; the segment of
    any population who has no understanding of
    If we followed Zanzara’s advice below and required an
    IQ test for government employees ‘with emphasis on logical,

    rational ability to reason through economic realities’
    we may get the government we need; one reduced
    by 90%. (I bet Prof. Walter E. Williams could produce
    a fitting economic test !)

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