Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Liz Pike explains why sinking the CRC Scam was a great idea.

It isn't often that a state representative will take the time to go to this extreme to attempt to straighten out a jerk... particularly a jerk who hates you and everything you stand for.

Trying to educate someone with this kind of mindset is literally like getting a pig to fly without sufficient velocity.   It's not impossible, but it rarely happens.

I congratulate Rep. Pike's effort here, and constraint it with that of her opponent who exhibits her intellectual and political cowardice by not only refusing to answer questions concerning her political agenda, but instantly deletes or flat out ignores those wise enough to disagree with her.

I understand the why of it: every position she has is a loser: putting them in writing is self-defeating.  But recognize this: at some point, she WILL have to answer.  And I'm going to be there when that happens.

Thanks to Liz Pike for taking the time to get a monkey to understand electricity.  The case against this rip off overwhelmed it as much as the case against the ballpark scam overwhelmed that. 

But obvious and common sense are frequently absent in any location occupied by this fringe-left nutter.

GGGG OOOOO, you and I disagree on the Columbia River Crossing project and a quick glance at many of your public posts indicate there are a great many topics we don't agree on. I accept that and will remain civil in my dialogue with you and others who disagree with me. That does not make any one of us bad people. I will defend your right to disagree with me. I will even defend your right of free ...speech to criticize me on my own FB page. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own "facts."

If you were in my shoes as the State Representative from the 18th Legislative district and received hundreds of emails, phone calls and facebook comments in opposition to the Light Rail project known as the CRC, and by contrast - just a few in support, you may have a different view of this issue.

Reflecting on the vast majority of constituents in opposition to what I believe is a deeply flawed project, opposing it was the right thing. I sleep good at night knowing it was the right thing for me to do. No decision I make matches 100% of the residents in my district. That's the way it is in elective politics.

A person gets elected because a majority of voting constituents believe they will look after their best interests. When an elected official forgets who put them in office, they don't remain there long. I can accept that some don't agree with my positions and therefore will not support my re-election efforts. That's the way it is.

The reasons I opposed this project, in addition to the fact that a large majority of my constituents also opposed it, are many:

• A majority of Clark County voters have consistently rejected all notions of light rail each and every time it has been on the ballot.

• CRC's own documents predicted 3% or less of bridge users would ride light rail; the cost of light rail represented a third of the total project cost - over $1 billion. That's a really poor return on investment of tax payer dollars.

• Top Coast Guard officials rejected the substandard bridge height of 95 feet until the President of the United States removed him from that post and installed his new official to approve the height that would have restricted current and future river commerce. This resulted in a CRC negotiated mitigation deal with three upriver companies which would have cost taxpayers more than $85 million. No CRC documents revealed where this new $85 million would come from.

• These three Southwest Washington businesses represent thousands of good-paying jobs which were seriously threatened due to inadequate bridge height.

• Citizens expect government to be fiscally responsible. Last year, Washington legislators were being asked to allocate $450 million toward a $3.5 billion megaproject.

• The CRC has spent $180 million on a $50 million "maximum" contract to design a replacement bridge. A major portion of those funds was used to secure an FEIS. We've not purchased the first steel I-beam or poured any concrete footing; $180 million could have built almost half the Interstate 205 Bridge today. (The I-205 Bridge cost $170 million in 1982, or $400 million in today's dollars). In spite of growing opposition, the CRC plowed ahead last year, spending more than $3 million per month.

• A year later, we find out from one of America's most prominent private bridge building contractors that we could have applied for an exemption on the FEIS process since this was a "replacement" project.

• A private citizen hired forensic accountant Tiffany Couch to investigate, and to date CRC planners have not produced all of the financial statements required by state or federal law. Six of her reports indicated the CRC project would have cost taxpayers more than $5.5 billion once the cost of tolls, interest on debt, and maintenance and operation was considered.

• Southwest Washington commuter tolling would have payed for a large portion of Oregon interchanges (more than $200 million), which had been spuriously allocated toward bridge costs. The project included additional upgrades in Oregon including $50 million toward the Gresham light-rail maintenance facility and upgrades to Portland's Steel Bridge.

• From 1926 to 1982, four major bridges were built across the Columbia River, with heights ranging from 140 to 210 feet. The CRC was designed at just 95-116 feet in order to accommodate Portland's light rail, which a majority of Clark County voters have repeatedly rejected.

• Logic would suggest any new crossing must accommodate current and future river users.

• Had we accepted light rail, we'd be financially tied to TriMet, which has a $1.1 billion deficit in its retirement/pension obligations. Tri-Met's own 2012 Annual Report said the agency was not worthy of any additional tax payer investment until it gets its financial house in order.

• Had light rail to Clark County been built with an operating agreement with TriMet, how much of their deficit would our citizens be expected to pay? With the information at hand, I was not willing to risk the financial wellbeing of our community.

• The CRC plan included $3.3 billion in tolls. Since a high percentage (some estimates are up to 70 percent) of traffic using the Interstate 5 Bridge are residents of Southwest Washington, it seems unfair that $2.3 billion (70 percent of $3.3 billion) would come from the pockets of our local families. That's $2.3 billion unavailable for spending at local businesses. Some toll estimates were $2,000 per year per car for the next 45 years!

For these reasons and more, a majority of legislators representing Southwest Washington repeatedly expressed concerns with this design. Bridge proponents told us it would take a decade, at additional cost, for a redesigned bridge. This was a myth. Kris Strickler, CRC Oregon project director, testified in Salem last February in 2013, stating it's a 6-18 month process to perform a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, at which time the CRC project would be back in line for funding.

• The Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis makes my point. The original bridge collapsed in August 2007. Thirteen months later, a $234 million replacement bridge was opened.

Moving forward, here are important alternatives to consider:

• The Oregon Department of Transportation indicates the current I-5 bridge will last for another 60 years.

• Existing spans can be upgraded to current seismic standards ($100 million).

• Construct a third bridge ($400 million to $500 million). CRC documents indicate actual bridge cost is just $528 million.

• Align swing span on BNSF rail bridge with high point of I-5 bridge to eliminate 95 percent of bridge lifts ($200 million). Senator Rivers and I initiated discussions with BNSF as far back as last summer. Those discussions continue.

• Given the significant financial needs of both states, in the final analysis, there was very little support for a $3.5 billion mega-project with questionable accounting practices and $20 million of undocumented, non-allocated spending.

• Plans are underway to invite Legislators from WA and OR to come together to identify positive solutions to improve this important transportation corridor that connects our states. I have had many discussions with Oregon legislators who agree that the controversial light rail component must be stripped away and citizens on both sides of the river must be included in these early discussions. This is a good place to start.

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