Memo details Oregon-led CRC

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter



The Oregon Department of Transportation on Thursday laid out in greater detail its plans for the still-evolving, pared-down Columbia River Crossing in a memo to state Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

Wheeler had raised a series of questions on the financial viability of the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement, now estimated to cost $2.7 billion. Project leaders are now pursuing an Oregon-only plan — still including tolls and light rail to Vancouver — after the Washington Legislature did not authorize funding for the CRC earlier this year.

The ODOT memo expresses confidence in the plan, but highlights the heightened risk Oregon would assume by taking on more debt to finance the CRC without Washington.

Such an arrangement could even cost Oregon’s Highway User Tax Revenue Bond program its AAA credit rating, according to ODOT.

“In the eventuality that the Highway User Tax Revenue Bond program is downgraded, the result will be higher interest rate costs and reduced debt capacity for a given revenue stream,” the memo read.

Also of note: The revised CRC would give the Oregon Transportation Commission — not Washington — sole authority over setting toll rates on the I-5 Bridge. An analysis submitted with the memo estimates peak-hour tolls on the new bridge at $3.62 or $4.34 each way, with a tolling pass.

The fast-tracked analysis comes as the Oregon Legislature weighs whether to re-authorize its previous financial commitment to the CRC. Lawmakers could return to Salem for a special session on Sept. 30.

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