The intentionally misleading re-brand of the failed Columbia River Crossing conceals the key fact that it is a 12-lane wide, 5 mile long freeway that just happens to cross a river, not a “bridge replacement.”

It’s vastly oversized and over-priced, with current cost estimate ranging as high as nearly $5 billion (before cost-overruns), which will necessitate round trip tolls of at least $5 for everyone using the bridge.

This part of the “I-5 bridge replacement” isn’t even the bridge, it’s the widened approach on Hayden Island. (Bike Portland)

Almost a decade ago, plans for a gigantic freeway-widening between Portland and Vancouver collapsed in the face of budget concerns and deep community disagreements about the project.  For the past year, the Oregon and Washington transportation departments have been trying to breath life into the zombie project—with the help of $40 million in consultants. The project’s-PR led marketing effort has systematically concealed the fundamental facts of the project, while promoting meaningless, unquantified and unenforceable platitudes about promoting equity and responding to climate change.

Like the original Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project, its an intellectually bankrupt sales pitch, not an honest conversation about alternatives.

It’s been apparent for months now that ODOT and WSDOT are trying to pressure the two states into recycling the project’s current record of decision–now more than a decade old.  That “ROD” as it’s called, specifies a massive freeway expansion illustrated above.  While the agency is hinting at the possibility of “design” tweaks—it’s apparent that their plan is to simply recycle the failed CRC proposal.

They’ve rebranded  it the “I-5 Bridge Replacement” but that’s an intentionally misleading title.  Sounds innocuous, right?  Who can be against merely “replacing” a bridge?

The only part of that branding that’s right is the number 5.

But they’ve left out the real meaning of the “5” in the title.  There are really three “5’s” that really define this project.  According to the project’s own documents: It’s five miles long, it’’ll cost $5 billion, and they’ll charge you $5 for a round trip.

It’s not a bridge “replacement” — It’s a five-mile long, 12-lane wide freeway that just happens to cross a river.  It stretches five miles from Lombard to Mill Plain Boulevard.

It’s 12 lanes over the Columbia River, and even wider on Hayden Island, as the above illustration shows.  Congressman Peter DeFazio has called the plan “gold-plated.” (Manning, Jeff. “Columbia River Crossing could be a casualty of the federal budget crunch”, The Oregonian, August 14, 2011).

It’s going to cost upwards of $5 billion, a—and likely more because they routinely have massive cost overruns.

According to their tolling financial estimates, which are part of the current finance plan, they’ll charge a minimum toll of $2.60 each way to cross the bridge, which works out to more than $5 per round trip. Peak tolls would be higher, and heavy trucks would pay four times as much as cars ($20 per round trip, minimum).

It’s time for ODOT and WSDOT to be honest about what they’re really proposing, the 5-5-5 project: 5 miles of freeway, $5 billion, $5 tolls per round trip.