Is Portland overpaying bridge plan by 10 times as much?

By Richard Leonetti,
Oregon Tax News Article

The planning and costs for the Portland-Vancouver seem to be way off the charts. Why should it take so long and cost so much? The latest version is to replace two bridges now in place of about 3,150 ft in length. The new one will include 3 lanes each way but have available six lanes each way for a total of 12 lanes. Something over $3 billion covers the highway portion with another $1 billion for the light rail and bikes: a total of over $4 billion. Now compare this to the recently completed St Anthony Falls Bridge near Minneapolis finished 9/18/08. This is about the same width as the Columbia Bridge, consisting of two bridges with 5 lanes each way plus 14 ft shoulders that can be later used for light rail or dedicated bus lanes. (probably more cost effective than light rail).
The bridge over the Mississippi is only 1,223 ft long so the Columbia span needs to be 2 1/2 times longer. But here the comparison astounds: the Minneapolis bridge took only 47 weeks to build and cost only $234 million. We have already spent more time talking about the Columbia Bridge and are proposing to spend somewhere between 12 and 20 times as much building it. Even if our bridge were to cost twice as much per foot, it should barely top $1 billion—and it should not cost twice as much per foot to build. What is wrong with Portland?

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Posted by at 05:30 | Posted in Measure 37 | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    We must overpay to ensure that all the illegals working on the bridge get a living wage.

  • UB

    Common sense leads to what the Minneapolis/Mississippi I-35W river crossing replacement cost.

    Don’t let the 4 billion dollar $hmucks shtick it to us!

  • Anonymous

    Cost and function do not matter here.
    Neither does track record. That’s why the same approach that has failed miserably is continually repeated.

    Lessons everywhere mean nothing to a planning regime that has full time employees at multiple agencies, many politicians and an army of activists churning out the campaign that so misrepresents past present and future.

  • JR

    It’s all about ‘Oregon jobs’, stupid.

    (Stupid = the same people that actually believe a politician when they say that ‘new gas taxes’ will be used ‘only’ for street maintenance…when the previous taxes were destined for street maintenance and never used for streets)

    (Stupid #2 = anyone that doesn’t believe there’s still a Goldschmidt-era ‘good-ol-boys network’ still running the City of Portland and is responsible for the extra 10x cost of the bridge)

    (Stupid #3 = those that believe that ‘transportation infrastructure jobs mean ‘permanent jobs’ to any state in the republic. When the government contracts and/or cash runs out, the jobs are gone. Did I mention ‘stupid’???)

  • Steve Plunk

    Why not have a competition for the bridge design and cost? Take the top three and let the voters of Oregon decide.

  • Bob Clark

    The Portland media and electorate are clueless when it comes to finances. Mayor Adams demands the bridge be an architectural marvel and no one questions the extra cost of such a demand. This demand will add greatly to the current $4 billion estimate.

  • Anon

    Folks really should contact their legislators and the media about this bridge boondoggle.

    This really is a Goldchmidt-Blumenauer-transportation-mafia project.

    This really will primarily benefit Vancouver commuters.

    This really is a huge waste of money.

    The designs are ugly to boot.

    Conservatives plus goo government types could help stop this project. We need to go louder on this thing.

  • contrarian

    The I-5 bridge replacement includes 5 miles of additional freeway widening and improvements, plus new on and off ramps, plus an actual light rail line that extends to downtown Vancouver, not just a wide spot for future rail. Plus it has to be high enough for big ships to pass under, not just Mississippi River barges. It all adds up.

    The I-35 project was just a bridge, a much shorter one over a much smaller river (at that point). Its apples and oranges.

    Plus, we are taking longer because we have longer. They had a bridge that collapsed, so had to cut to the chase and fast track a replacement. We have 2 functional bridges that are at less than optimal capacity. We have the luxury of time.

    If you think Oregon and Washington engineers are just dumber or more wasteful than Minnesota engineers, then hire the latter. But I’ll bet given the same objectives, they will be in the same ballpark price wise. Engineering is engineering, and construction is construction. The same physics and costs apply in both places.

  • SteveG

    Econ 101: price is the most efficient regulator of supply and demand.

    Why not toll the existing bridge, with a “HOT lane” or 2 in each direction that’s electronically managed, through variable tolling, to always flow at 45MPH?

    The technology is already in use throughout the world, and if used on the existing I-5 bridge, the capacity constraint will go away, as people will either pay the toll, sit in traffic, share a ride (bus or carpool) across, or either change jobs or move to avoid the bridge.

    Highways aren’t free, why do we insist on not charging for their use?

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