Saturday, February 18, 2012

CRC and C-TRAN Can’t See the ‘Elephant in the Room’

Undaunted by questions and growing opposition from taxpayers, the Columbia River Crossing and C-Tran continue to forge ahead with the multi-billion dollar project, ignoring or casting aside just about every single concern of taxpayers, business owners, elected officials, engineers, just about any and every person looking at this albatross and our economy and saying, ‘wait a minute.’

As was previously shown, an independent analysis of CRC finances raising several pertinent questions was instantly dismissed and the forensic accountant hired to wade through a “document dump” received through a FOIA request disparaged and demeaned.

As evidenced by the following Columbian video, Washington State Department of Transportation Director Paula Hammond makes no bones in her criticism of the analysis,

You can read more on Ms. Hammonds’ defending CRC over on the Columbian at Transportation agency defends work on CRC with additional video and coverage at Official: 2013 CRC start date not likely.

Of particular relevance to the elephant in the room being ignored by CRC & C-Tran is the second article linked. As noted, the anticipated start of construction in 2013 is “unlikely,” but tolling of the current bridge years before the completion of construction of the new bridge is very likely.

Also being ignored is that even with other regions of the state being more receptive to tolling, a recent poll revealed Southwest Washington dislikes tolls.

More than once, here and here we see how not only are traffic projections inflated, giving the appearance of an ability to raise more revenue than needed, but that many claims on this project to date have been inflated.

What should be concerning to officials is seeing the results after 6 weeks of tolling up north on a similar project where commuters are much more receptive to tolls than we in Southwest Washington are. Reported by King5 News in Seattle,
“After six weeks of tolling, data provided to KING 5 News, by the State Department of Transportation shows more than one-third of drivers have abandoned the 520 floating toll bridge, putting pressure on alternate routes.”
the data shows overall traffic volume is down on the 520 bridge by 34 percent. Eighteen percent in the morning commute, 25 percent in the evening.”
They are more accepting of tolls, yet in the 6 weeks of tolling the I-90 Bridge there, one third of commuters have sought alternate routes so as to avoid having to pay the tolls.

Just a couple miles east of the Interstate Bridge sits the I-205 bridge which is already paid for and in spite of efforts to also toll it, it remains toll free, at least for now. An amendment introduced by 18th legislative district representative Ann Rivers to the tolling measures recently passed intends to keep that bridge toll free.

If one third of the commuters in an area more receptive to paying tolls seek an alternative route, is it much of a stretch to imagine perhaps one half of Clark County commuters, where tolls are much more frowned upon, won’t simply jump over to the free I-205 bridge to get to work or shop in Portland?, Clark County’s Online News Network informs us in Independent analyst: CRC revenue-from-toll forecasts ‘simply look too high’,
“In its July, 2011 report to the governors of Washington and Oregon, London-based RBConsult Ltd. writes that ‘In the absence of very strong arguments backed by empirical evidence, at this stage in the analysis the CRC traffic and revenue forecasts simply look too high.’ Robert Bain, the principal of RBConsult, is a former Standard & Poor’s ratings analyst who has published widely on problems with the traffic and toll forecasting process.”
“Issues raised by the two analysts included information that was several years old, traffic patterns skewed by construction projects, and millions less in toll revenue than forecast.”
“Among the weaknesses Bain points out is that traffic and revenue reports ‘fall short when compared with typical ‘investment grade’ traffic studies,’ and the traffic modeling activities described in the reports ‘are confusing and much of the work now appears to be dated’.”
In spite of repeated warnings and cautioning, CRC & C-Tran push ahead like a bull running lose in a China Shop, putting off the decision on just who will be permitted to vote on the maintenance and operations taxing for light rail, all of us in the county or just a gerrymandered sub-district. This caught the attention of Marvin Case, Publisher Emeritus of the Reflector who states in his February 15, 2012 editorial, C-TRAN strategy is bad government,
“Virtually all county residents, not just residents of Vancouver, would pay the tax because they shop in Vancouver and at Westfield Shoppingtown Vancouver,” and “for the last voice in establishing the tax or the tax rate.”
Adding to this is the 10-page rebuttal released by WSDOT of Tiffany Couch’s analysis of CRC finances and clearly stated to be a review done by “David Dye, Deputy Secretary and Bob Covington, Director or Financial Services at WSDOT,” laughingly referred to as “an independent evaluation.”

Do they really think we all are that naive?

Just how large does this elephant in the room need to be before Paula Hammond, CRC Director Nancy Boyd, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, the self-anointed members of Identity Clark County and all of the others blindly pushing this ahead take notice of it?

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