Either Way, Worst Case CRC Scenario…

Mark my words…

If the CRC does manage to go forward, it’ll get pushed out, delayed and cost more than it is estimated solely because it is too large of a project as it is. These are notorious for failing to meet the original goals. Here’s my estimations of what will realistically happen.

  • I’m betting it’ll bust budgets and probably spiral into the $4-6 billion dollar range. Currently it’s decreased by $100 million to 3.1-3.5 billion, which is weird since the original environmental assessment and other project work is easily $100 million dollars over budget (at least any reasonable budget for this type of work).
  • It will likely, even running over budget from the current, have to cut at least one of the corridor amenities. What I mean by this, is that they’ll end up dropping an exit or some other feature to save some money when things start to run over.
  • It is also likely, on big projects like this especially (see big dig as a prime example), that they’ll start to reduce the “niceties” of the bike, pedestrian and light rail features. Likely either cutting the distance of the light rail to just downtown Vancouver and not reaching the community college and also prospectively cutting the bike & pedestrian facilities.
  • Access to the bridge in anything but a car will be painful in various ways. With high speed auto & truck traffic above the pathway it will leave the pedestrian and bike travel exposed to the high decibal sounds of the traffic in addition to the uncomfortable lack of real light into the pathway. Maybe they’ll add lights, but more likely that’ll be cut to make sure they can cover the roadway costs.
  • Traffic will not increase to fill the bridge for years, namely because the three lanes in each state feeding the bridge will not increase anytime soon. At least they are basing this 10 lanes on the idea that the majority of traffic that causes congestion on the I-5 bridge gets on or off the bridge within 3-4 exist on either side of the state line. Which of course begs the question, why are we not building an arterial bridge instead of a multi-billion dollar Interstate Bridge that doesn’t really help local communities in a reasonable, healthy or effective way?
  • North Portlanders will get a 5-15% increase in preventable deaths from poisoning related to automobiles on the Interstate.

So that’s a few bets. So far, I’ve not been wrong about large scale projects like this. I started guessing when I first started studying the Boston Big Dig years ago. Sad to say I was off by a billion dollars on that final bill, but that was still less than 10%.  o_O

Anyway, we move forward toward the CRC Nightmare as it is…  but alas, I have some positives that might come out of this, and these are my estimates from that perspective.

  • If the bridge is built, light rail ridership on the Yellow Line will double. Win for Vancouver and Portland.
  • Vancouver will be the base of more trips from alcoholics, drug dealers, meth heads, heroine addicts and prostitution than Portland will be a base for trips to Portland. In other words, Vancouver can rest easy, their problems will come to Portland, not the other way around. (and yes, if you’re not aware of this fact, per capita Vancouver has vastly more drug, alcohol and related problems than Portland, fitting much closer to its conservative Republican voting base). Win for Vancouver.
  • Approximately 100-200 tax evading people will actually move to Vancouver to use the light rail but lower their cost of housing. Only to find their livability decreases and transport costs actually go up since they’ll only be able to use the light rail to get to Portland, where they really want to be anyway. Then they’ll just return to Portland 2-3 years after moving. Win for Portland over the long run, immediate win for Vancouver.
  • Vancouver will become the “gateway” city for people moving from the midwest and California thinking that it is actually part of the “Portland” experience when in reality it is much different. They’ll move at first to Vancouver, realize it is harder to live there and work in Portland, and then just end up moving to Portland after they realize the best way to live and work in Portland. Win for Vancouver & Portland.
  • Bicyclists in Vancouver will suffer less, even though the crossing won’t be dramatically improved. For bicyclists that use the light rail, it’ll be a dramatically improved crossing experience, getting them to the Kenton Neighborhood in quick fashion.  Win for Vancouver & Portland.
  • Traffic delays will stay relatively the same, and this project will kill off any attempt to spend money on and remedy any other Interstate bottlenecks for 10-20 years. Increasing congestion in other parts of the city and making it more troublesome to resolve traffic issues for the Portland metro area, making every other mode except the automobile more attractive. Win for Vancouver and Portland.
  • Getting the Lloyd Center area Interstate fixes built will likely be broken apart after the budget woes begin in earnest with the CRC. Which means we’ll be able to break apart the budget of the Lloyd Center area projects into reasonable chunks and implement the ones the communities in those areas care about, such as the Intersate cover, biking, and pedestrian safety improvements instead of cutting massive swaths into the I-5 to I-84 corridor to add lanes.  Win for Portland.
  • The roadway will be smoother with newer plates & roadway built. Win for Portland and Vancouver.
  • The bridge will make driving more expensive for Vancouver residents that hate Portland. More people that hate how Portland is run and it’s intent around building community will hopefully move away. Maybe to Houston or something, I hear almost every inch of that city is paved, it’d be great for Portland haters and automobile dependent people. Win for Portland and Vancouver.

So at this time, these are my estimates – or projections – for the future of the CRC. What are yours?

In one of my upcoming write ups, I intend to cover a full break down of the Milwaukee Light Rail Project.

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