Joe Cortright, the local economist who also chairs the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, recently released a study of the Columbia River Crossing's finances (at the behest of, surprisingly, the president of Plaid Pantry). I asked Cortright to explain his study in plain English and here's the full Q&A, but here's the big question:
MERCURY: What does your analysis say about the cost of the CRC?
JOE CORTRIGHT: The cost is more than double what they're telling us, up to $10 billion or more. On top of the sticker price you have to pay $2.7 billion in interest costs. Bridge users will wind up having to pay the standard toll, plus a surcharge of $1 to $1.25 to cover added costs associated with buying toll transponders for frequent commuters and actually mailing toll bills to pay-by-plate bridge users. ["Pay by plate" means drivers' license plates will be photographed, with bills sent to their residences.—Eds.] The financial statements they've put together are best-case scenarios. Plus, the Oregon Department of Transportation's track record with mega-projects is that they almost never come in for the amount that's estimated. The tendency is to ignore risks and overestimate revenues.
Yikes. Want to check his math? Read his study here.