The Washington legislature adjourned without passing a transportation funding bill, meaning that our northern neighbors declined the invitation to chip in $450 million toward the Columbia River Crossing Freeway/Bridge/Light Rail project. Today Governor Kitzhaber acknowledged that without that funding, the CRC project is dead, and stated that the planning effort will be shut down.
It's time for the proponents of light rail to accept reality: because of the preexisting needs of river commerce, the only ways that Portland's light rail system can be extended across the Columbia River are (1) through a tunnel, (2) over a drawbridge, or (3) over a high fixed bridge in east Multnomah County. The Yellow Line isn't going to run to downtown Vancouver while the Columbia River is still serving oceangoing commerce at Vancouver.
The fun part will be watching the blame game begin on Monday, as disappointed contractors and consultants point fingers at the people who cost them $4 billion of mostly federal money. Their fingers should point at Portland City Hall.
Portland insisted that the replacement bridge include light rail. The technical limitations of light rail mean that a fixed-span bridge can't be built high enough at Hayden Island to accommodate existing river traffic. That conflict, and the hundreds of millions carelessly spent on planning an inadequate bridge, doomed the project. Without the light rail albatross, the Interstate Bridges could easily have been replaced for $500 million for new bridges and another $500 million for access improvements.
On to the next project! Isaac predicts that the collapse of the CRC effort will result in Portland and TriMet redoubling their push to construct light rail to Sherwood along Barbur Boulevard and Pacific Highway. We have a lot of people who need to be kept busy.