English: WILLAMETTE RIVER (June 7, 2007) - The guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) makes her way down the river and under the Broadway Bridge enroute to Portland, Oregon, to participate in the 100th Annual Rose Festival.
Is the sound of nearly $200 million of your tax dollars being flushed.
Willy Week reported yesterday that the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has introduced legislation that continues current standards which prevent federal funding for projects such as the "Columbia River Crossing" that haven't secured local funding and obtained necessary permits. The long-planned light rail/bicycle/pedestrian bridge with several lanes for commercial and private vehicular traffic, intended to replace the current I-5 bridges, hasn't obtained many of those requirements.
Oregon's legislature and governor have pledged to somehow come up with $450 million for "Oregon's share", but that's contingent upon Washington doing the same - and thus far, it's been tough sledding up north. As well, despite having spent upwards of $180 million on years of "planning and design", the CRC committee has yet to come up with a design featuring sufficient clearance to accommodate maritime traffic on the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' dredging equipment is among several vessels that would become useless with a low bridge, and the U.S. Coast Guard, which holds final authority, denied permits for the CRC's initial 95-foot-high design. Miffed, the committee eventually returned with a design that's eleven feet taller; essentially daring the USCG to deny them again.
The reason underlying the CRC's insistence upon a design of insufficient clearance is due to their refusal to omit light rail from the package; the little trains can't manage the increased gradients that a proper bridge with sufficient clearance would entail. They want to ram light rail into downtown Vancouver, regardless of the fact that residents in Clark County, Washington have repeatedly demonstrated that they don't want it, and they're not about to let some stinkin' federal wave-riders stop them.
Well, maybe...and maybe they've just flushed over $180 million without turning a shovelfull of dirt. By contrast, the I-205 bridge was designed, constructed, and opened in less time and for less money than has been spent to date on "planning and design" of the CRC.
But the future is all about 19th-century transit! Light rail and streetcars are essential! They reduce congestion!
Yes, well - about that latter claim...I had to cross the Broadway Bridge in Portland yesterday, on the way to yet another visit with yet another oncologist. The bridge has two traffic lanes in each direction, and while waiting for the traffic light to change, I saw a vaunted Portland Streetcar pull onto the bridge, heading in the same direction I needed to go. The streetcar lines are conveniently located in the left traffic lanes on the bridge, so I made sure to move into the right lane.
Sure enough, drivers in the left lane got stuck behind the Streetcar as it poked along at four miles an hour. I waved as I passed. For some reason, drivers generally seem to believe that the streetcar will speed up. Unlike them, I've been studying these turkeys for years. And due to the fact that that the bridge is a conventional drawbridge, the geniuses in charge of this brilliant, futuristic transit mode failed to consider that raising and lowering the bridge halves might sort of mess up the alignment of the lines required to feed juice into the trolley. After several months of operation, it became necessary to slow the vehicles to a stately four miles per hour as they traverse the bridge, in order to avoid damage to the pantagraphs. That's some fine planning there, Lou.
And placing the streetcar tracks in what most normal people regard as the passing lanes was a stroke of pure genius. There were six people riding, by the way.