Columbia River Crossing: Overconfidence sunk the shipping route
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Andy Giegerich is the editor of Sustainable Business Oregon. Of the 200 stories the Portland Business Journal published on the Columbia River Crossing since 2006, his byline or name appears on or in 119.
As of this morning, the Portland Business Journal has either written or collected exactly 200 stories that mention the Columbia River Crossing since 2006.
The first one, by Shelly Strom, mentioned a study that found the more than 10,000 trucks using the I-5 corridor daily carried cargo valued at $26 billion annually. Those trucks, in the year 2000, were delayed by 13,390 hours because of traffic over the full year, causing losses of $14 million.
By the end of 2007, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski was leading a growing wave of voices calling for a new bridge. It was around that point that a formal subset of the Oregon and Washington transportation departments set up shop in Vancouver and went about working on what was to be a $4.2 billion project. In June 2008, businesses released a study contending that the economic losses if a new bridge wasn't built would be massive ($844 million by 2025).
All seemed to be rolling along, as it were. But a few critical voices had yet to chime in.
In wondering how our neighbors to the north felt about chipping $1 billion or so for a new CRC, I interviewed two elected officials with ties to Washington’s transportation dollars. Both Washington State Rep. Judy Clibborn, a Democrat, and Republican State Sen. Don Benton, of Vancouver, told me they thought getting money from their legislature would be difficult.
At the end of the year, I touched base with Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who served on the House Transportation Committee. DeFazio confirmed what many had whispered for years: Congress had little appetite to fund highway-related projects.
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