Big news in the world of the Portland-Vancouver $4.2 billion bridge: a U.S. Representative has joined the chorus of voices criticizing the financing plan for the 12 lane bridge.
"I didn't invent mathematics, but I try to listen to it. And if the numbers aren't there, the numbers aren't there," said Representative Brian Baird (D-Vancouver) Tuesday in a highly critical article on the front page of the Clark County Columbian. Baird says the federal government will likely only contribute $200-300 million to the Columbia River Crossing Project — the CRC staff's financing plan banked on $400 to $600 million. Baird also believes that the planned bridge tolls ($1-$2) won't be high enough to cover the cost of construction. I can't find the article on the Columbian's completely inscrutable website but luckily someone emailed me a pdf of the front page for your reading pleasure.
The Columbian staff followed up with an editorial Wednesday morning, quoting Baird again at length:
"The (bridge planners') attitude is first, 'What do we want to build?' and then, 'How do we pay for it?'" He believes that process should be reversed: Count your money before choosing the color of the Rolls Royce's upholstery. You might find out you can't afford a Rolls.
It's funny to hear that analogy coming from a US Representative because local economist Joe Cortright uttered an eerily similar comparison at Sunday's grassroots rally against the 12 lane bridge: "Politicians' discussion over whether this should be 10 lanes or 12 lanes sounds like a couple of middle school boys arguing over what color Lamborghini they want. They're very opinionated but they don't have the money to afford any of them."
Baird adds a critical federal perspective to a project some Oregon state reps spoke out against on Sunday. Democratic reps Nick Kahl, Jules Kopel Bailey and Jefferson Smith are all on record questioning the 12-lane option's financing plan. "Let's make sure we don't appropriate any money in Salem for this 12-lane boondoggle," said Kahl on Sunday.