Hayden Island Section of 3 proposed Light Rail and I-5 Bridges
The original I-5 is buried underneath all this.
Then and Now
In 1983, we built a beautiful I-205 Bridge in 3 years for a total cost of $175 million without debt and without tolls. That fabulous bridge was the result of 13 years of planning by competent leaders who focused on a clear and simple goal: Build a highway across the Columbia River that is wide enough, high enough, and built well enough to last generations. Keep it simple, affordable, and pay for it with cash.
No money was wasted on toll studies nor was it bloated with billion dollar Light Rail. Even though the Federal Highway Trust Fund should have paid 90% of the cost, Oregon and Washington paid the entire amount in cash. The bridge is named after Glenn Jackson, whose outstanding leadership accomplished that goal in spite of the Federal government’s neglect.
Glenn Jackson is no longer here to provide such competent leadership. Today, our elected representatives and their appointees reveal an appalling lack of leadership. The 205 bridge looks like a dream project compared to the boondoggle that they spent a $100 million to propose.
While we would support a project like the 205 bridge, we must oppose the misguided CRC plan to add billions in debt, charge tolls, consume Hayden Island, add Light Rail and pay more than the entire cost of 205 bridge to tear down the valuable I-5 bridge. A third highway across the Columbia like the 205 Bridge is a far better solution.
Poor priorities fail to provide for basic infrastructure such as critical interstate highways and bridges even though large sums are being collected for that purpose. We continue to pay $39 billion in gas taxes each year into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. That trust fund was established so the federal government could pay 90% for federal highway and bridge construction projects leaving 10% for the states to pay. Yet we have been told for over 50 year that there is no money for a new interstate bridge. The politicians in charge of handling these trust funds have clearly violated our trust.
When our elected leaders fail to provide good leadership, citizens with good common sense ought to run for office and replace those professional politicians that collect taxes but fail to use those taxes for their intended purpose. We have the opportunity to do just that in elections this year. We will be publishing the positions of each candidate on this site shortly. Please keep checking. It is quite a task trying to get their clear answers to our questions.
Both Bridges by Law – Permanently
It used to be that tolls had one purpose, to pay off the debt. Tolls were removed once the debt was paid off. In 2008, Washington State changed the law. HB 1773 authorized tolls to be used for two new purpose, to reduce congestion (ref 1) and to reduce greenhouse gases (ref 2). HB 1773 authorizes tolls to stay in place permanently after the debt is paid off (ref 3). HB 1773 also requires the I-205 bridge to be tolled if the I-5 bridge is tolled. HB 1773 makes it illegal not to also toll the 205 if the I-5 gets tolled (ref 4). They must both become toll bridges if the I-5 becomes a toll bridge due to the traffic that would be diverted from the I-5 that would increase the congestion on the I-205. The Columbia River Crossing name hides the fact that it includes not just one, but two toll bridges, the I-5 and I-205 bridges.
HB 1773 Ref:
1. Section 5, page 4, line 3 – to optimize system performance – reduce congestion (multiple places).
2. Section 5, page 3, line 32 – greenhouse gas reduction
3. Section 5, page 4, line 7 – duration of toll collection
4. Section 5, page 3, line 28 – diversion of traffic to other routes
Not Here. Not Now.
Few people realize the extreme cost of Light Rail. Light Rail consumes most of Portland’s transportation budget, yet moves less than 1% of the people compared to roads. The proposed plan to spend $1 billion to spread Portland’s Metro into Vancouver would be a disaster for Clark County’s transportation budget for roads and busses.
High density population centers can justify expensive subway networks and Light Rail systems in large cities such as New York, London and San Francisco. But their expense makes them inappropriate for Vancouver’s lower density and smaller size. Big spending politicians that push billion dollar Light Rail for Vancouver risk drowning our economy in debt. This is especially unwise now with record housing foreclosures, failing businesses and rampant unemployment. The few businesses and governments that are not in financial trouble are those who wisely live within their means and avoid excessive debt. Whole nations are on the brink of financial collapse due to excessive debt. Washington and Oregon are unable to balance their existing budgets. This is not the time to add billions more to our already troubled budgets.
No Tolls. No Light Rail.
As our economy suffers the consequences of out of control spending, the CRC (Columbia River Crossing) Committee has spent $100,000,000 to study how to borrow billions and toll the I-5 and I-205 bridges without an election to get Portland’s Light Rail into Vancouver. The plan turns Hayden Island into a multilayer complex of toll bridge tentacles. Construction taking 5 to 7 years does not include widening the I-5 bottleneck south of the bridge. It includes tearing down the historic I-5 Bridge that is in good working order and serviceable for the foreseeable future.
How many $175 million 205 bridges could $4.2 billion build? We need to stop this waste before it is too late. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Tolling the I-5 and I-205 bridges and the devastating debt for such a wasteful project would seriously hurt our communities. Please read on and join the effort to turn this around.
Preserve Our Freedom to Drive
“Transportation lies at the core of the freedom we enjoy as Americans, freedom to go where we want, when we want, freedom to live and work where we choose, and freedom to spend time with our families.” – Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Use Your Own Noggin
You are encouraged to think for yourself and consider the information on this site so that you are informed and can refute the fallacious arguments that are being advanced as problems and solutions. Active informed citizens can correct wasteful misguided politicians and work to ensure good government that is made up of good people with sensible judgment. Will you be such a citizen? Please read on.
Where are the Traffic Choke Points that Cause Congestion?
We are told that the I-5 bridge is the choke point. See for yourself where the choke points are. Go to maps.google.com and enter Delta Park 97217. Click on the button near the top of the map that says Traffic. An info box will come up that shows the day of the week and current time. Click “change” and select “Traffic at day and time”. You can select any day and see the average traffic for any time of day by sliding the Time Slider. Most of each day shows green.
Select the morning rush hour (around 7:45 am) for various days of the week. Notice that the southbound choke point (where the traffic turns red) is south of the bridge at Delta Park and traffic backs up onto the bridge. Is the problem not enough southbound lanes on the I-5 bridge? Would building a new bridge fix that? You decide.
Select the afternoon rush hour (around 4:30 pm) for various days of the week. Notice that the northbound traffic (where the traffic turns red) is south of Hayden Island and starts speeding up as it crosses the bridge. Is the problem not enough northbound lanes on the I-5 bridge? Should we build a $4 billion bridge to fix that? It may help the northbound traffic some. But doesn’t the problem remain primarily south of the bridge? You decide.
A Short Editorial
If the I-5 bridge is not the main source of congestion, then what is the driving force behind this project? Light Rail? Pursuit of revenue in the form of tolls? An agenda to discourage people from driving by using tolls as a means of reducing congestion? Are these the proper priorities and roles of the Department of Transportation?
Isn’t free flowing transportation and interstate commerce the life blood of our economy? Isn’t the proper role of the Department of Transportation to build and maintain roads and bridges that facilitate unrestricted free flowing transportation? Why do Washington stores ask their customers if they are Washington residents? What is the reason behind not charging Oregon residents sales tax in Washington. Don’t we want to encourage Oregon residents to visit Washington? Don’t Oregon stores want to encourage Washington residents to shop there? What will tolls do to that neighborly welcome? We should be diligent to protect our heritage of freedom to travel. Freedom has historically been exchanged for state control in order to achieve some “greater good”. The state can make its citizens servants and sources of profit under the guise of reducing greenhouse gases to save the planet. As electric vehicles become more popular in the near future, greenhouse gases from gas powered cars will be a thing of the past. Yes, we want to be good environmental stewards by saving gas. But we do that voluntarily by driving more efficient vehicles, not by being forced to constrict the flow of our life blood.
Traffic Volume Before and After Construction
The WSDOT estimates that 180,000 vehicles per day will cross the I-5 bridge every day in 2030. These numbers show that after spending $1 billion for Light Rail that the vast majority of I-5 traffic will still be vehicles driving across the bridge, not Light Rail. Those driven vehicles, unlike Light Rail, include multiple passenger vehicles and trucks carrying freight. Notice that their graph shows that nearly all of their scenarios, except the No Tolls scenario move less traffic than the No Build solution. They reveal that they think that this project is a success if they move about the same or less traffic than the No Build solution. They do this by discouraging drivers with tolls that abridge their freedom to travel. They make the cost highest during rush hour when drivers don’t have a choice and must drive to and from work. These tolls add one more burden to some drivers that are struggling to make ends meet.
The chart also shows that I-5 tolls will increase the congestion across the 205 bridge. To fix that problem, they propose to add tolls to the 205 to discourage people from also driving across that bridge. We grant our new masters a monopoly to strangle our economy by penalizing the blood flow through our two jugular veins and divide our currently united communities.
Compare to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Our representatives would have us believe that we should treat the I-5 Columbia River Bridge just like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. They say that since they tolled that one, then it is appropriate to toll this one. The flawed reasoning of this argument becomes clear when we compare these two bridges.
|SR-16 and Tacoma Narrows Bridge||I-5 and Columbia River Bridge|
|State highway owned by Washington State, not a federal highway||Federal highway owned by the United States, not owned by any state|
|A regional bridge into a peninsula within the state, not part of the national grid||A federal transcontinental interstate highway, a major component of the nationwide grid, the only United States highway connecting Canada to Mexico.|
|27 mile route entirely within the state||1381 miles across three states|
|Designed to carry local / regional traffic||Designed to carry national traffic from one state to another|
|Funding available from one source: Washington State||Funding available from three sources: Federal government, Washington State and Oregon State|
|The only toll bridge within Washington state||There are no toll bridges anywhere along the I-5. None in California, Oregon, or Washington.|
|No Light Rail||Light Rail is not found anywhere along the I-5 and is foreign to the federal interstate system. It would be a local system. Light Rail has already cost Portland over $5 billion and carries a tiny fraction of Portland area travelers. Light Rail adds $1 billion ($945.75 Million) to the cost.|
|Added alongside an exiting 1950 span that was configured to carry traffic in the other direction||The proposed plan includes dismantling our historic bridge spans built in 1917 and 1958 that is well maintained, already upgraded, in good working order, debt free and still fit for decades of service.
It appears that the idea of keeping the existing spans and building a simpler third bridge one mile west has not been considered. The cost would be a small fraction and connect our industrial sectors.
|The question of $3.00 tolls was put to the local voters in a 1998 election. The tolls are now $4.00. The state wants $5.00. Trucks already pay up to $12. Transponder accounts must be prepaid with a minimum of $30 plus the cost of the transponder. $52 fine imposed if not promptly paid.||The project is proceeding without a vote to add tolls and to include light rail into downtown Vancouver.|
Is Light Rail Financially Sustainable?
Using the WSDOT numbers, the Light Rail portion of this project will lose $88.9 million the first year and continue to lose an increasing amount that grows to over $2 billion in 12 years (the year 2030). Check the math:
The following parameters were used to generate the table:
Riders per day, operating costs, and initial debt are the numbers published by WSDOT.
The number of riders published by the WSDOT assumes that 10% of all drivers will switch to Light Rail even though their own studies show they only expect 0.5% to switch.
Ticket price for a one way trip in 2018 is assumed to be $2.00 and increases 5% per year.
Operating costs are assumed to increase 5% per year.
Interest rate and finance charges to service the bond debt are based on 10% per year.
WSDOT numbers show that they plan to pay a finance charge of 14% (116/829.75 million = $945.75 million).
The debt service coverage published by the Columbia River Crossing Committee is 15%.
The income from tickets does not even cover the interest. So the debt will grow unless it is taken from some other source.
Pursuit of Revenue Tramples Good Stewardship
A fiscally responsible funding plan sets aside the fuel taxes already being collected for a period of several years. A reasonably priced bridge is then paid for in cash tax dollars, incurring no interest, finance, or collection charges. This is the most economical way interstate freeways have historically been funded. Government leaders planned ahead, wisely budgeted, and demonstrated good stewardship. In contrast, permanent tolls are the most expensive way to build a bridge as the funding must be borrowed up front. The vast majority of the toll dollars are then consumed to service the interest and finance charges on the multi-billion dollar debt, plus collection fees.
Where Does This Lead?
This is just the beginning of a downward spiral. Oregon and Washington should learn a lesson from the citizens of Texas who are reaping disastrous consequences as a result of transportation policies motivated by the pursuit of revenue. The following documentary video tells the eye opening story of the tragedy unfolding in Texas. As you watch, consider how they ended up in their present situation. This story reveals the bitter cost of transportation policies motivated by the pursuit of revenue. Then realize that our states are headed in the same direction.
Rushing Toward Disaster
A news release on April 13, 2010 by Washington Governor Gregoire and Oregon Governor Kulongoski states “In 2008, local and regional governments decided to replace the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River and extend the regional light rail system into Washington.” The official press release is posted on their website. The Governors have made it clear that if they could get away with it, they would convert both the I-5 and 205 crossings into toll bridges. They have ignored our strong opposition to tolling the 205 bridge. We must voice our opposition loud and clear before it is too late. The implementation panel is rushing to confirm the debt finance and construction plans. We must unite, protest and oppose having bridge tolls forced upon us against our will.
Fuel taxes are user fees because they are paid only by those who purchase the product. When fuel taxes are charged to build and maintain roads and then tolls are added for the same roads, the users are double taxed. The 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act established the Highway Trust Fund and stipulated that 100 percent of the gas tax be deposited into this fund. That law said that federal funds are to pay for 90 percent of interstate highway construction costs with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent. That 10% gets split so Washington pays 5% and Oregon pays 5%. Our federal government is still collecting those funds amounting to $5 billion in gas tax for each penny per gallon every three years. The federal government imposes a gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. This amounts to $92 billion over three years just in federal gas taxes. This does not include the 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel tax. In addition, our states collect their own gas and diesel taxes. We pay 43.4 cents/gallon gas tax and 48.7 cents/gallon diesel tax in Oregon and 54.4 cents/gallon gas tax and 60.4 cents/gallon diesel tax in Washington. Yet, they tell us there is no money for roads and they must impose tolls. When we allow our legislators to raid these user fees to be misappropriated and drained, we submit to highway robbery.
Role of Government
The constitution of the United States in article 1, section 8 empowers congress to lay and collect taxes to provide for a very short list of responsibilities. That list explicitly says “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads”. A Post Road is defined as a road over which mail is carried. Our representatives are guilty of mismanaged priorities, misallocation of funds, and violation of trust when they collect the user fee fuel taxes, fail to allocate them for the intended purpose and then attempt to impose additional user fees in the form of tolls. We must not accept the lie that there is no money. The taxes are being paid. The question is “Where is it going?” We are like sheep being fleeced twice. This is a wakeup call to be more diligent about electing good people who will be wise responsible stewards of these resources.
Construction Costs Compared to I-205
The I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge opened in December 1982 for a total cost of $175 million with 8 traffic lanes and a 10,580 foot span. Government stats say $175 million in 1982 dollars would be $378 million in today’s dollars (factor = 2.16).
The proposed I-5 replacement bridge could reach $4.2 billion with 10 traffic lanes and a 6400 foot span (see page 28 of the WSTC report). Later estimates range from $2.5 to $3.5 billion plus finance charges. $4.2 billion could build 11 I-205 bridges in today’s dollars even though the I-205 is 40% longer (4200 / 378 = 11.1). $2.5 billion costs more than 6 I-205 and $3.5 billion more than 9 I-205 bridges.
It is so expensive, that those pushing it have no hope of building it without converting it and the I-205 into toll bridges and plunging our two state economies into unprecedented debt. The proposed bridge is so impractical that it appears to be a boondoggle of monumental proportions.
Yet our elected representatives say it has already been decided. Huge sums are being spent as they hurry ahead in a race to make this regrettable blunder too late to abort. “As of the end of February, the CRC had consumed $87 million in state and federal funding for planning.” Our hard earned tax dollars are being squandered until we act to stop the mounting loss.
We cannot allow transportation policies to be motivated by the pursuit of revenue. We must live within our means and find practical solutions that improve our lives. This stands in stark contrast to the agenda of many of our elected representatives and their appointees. If they push self-serving, wasteful and hurtful projects, we must take action to replace them with servants who are motivated by a willingness to bless and not curse our communities. Will you help? Please help by joining with us to win this struggle.
Holding Our Leaders Accountable
We need to hold our elected representatives accountable. If their actions are the opposite of their campaign promises, they should be recalled. We have elections coming this year. We will be publishing the position and contact information of every elected representative and candidate that can influence transportation policy.
Spread the Word
Please spread the word and help us oppose I-5 and 205 tolls. Please email your friends and post a link to this site on your Facebook page. It will improve daily. We are in the process of compiling the candidate positions and will post them on this website as we receive their answers. We started with the candidates running in Clark County, WA and then will add those candidates running in northern Oregon. Please check soon for the results.
Your feedback is welcome. You can email us at NoTolls@NoTolls.com
NoTolls.com PAC Chairman
1400 NE 136 Ave
Vancouver, WA 98684
(updated on July 10, 2010)
Project Area Map – March 2010 (6 Mb pdf file)
WSDOT Columbia River Crossing website
WSDOT CRC Tolling website
The Cato Institute