Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tolls: coming soon to a bridge near you

Today's OregonLive.com announces that the Interstate 5 bridge connecting Oregon and Washington has been selected as a Corridor of the Future, smoothing the way for billions of dollars in federal construction money to solve the bridge bottleneck.

But if you read the story carefully, it's interesting to note the subtleties. Even though reporter Dylan Rivera mentioned the possibility of light rail ("The costs of undertaking a bridge makeover -- whether by addition of a span for more lanes or the creation of multiple spans for highway and light rail traffic -- can be staggering") in paragraph 4, you won't see much reference to the mass transit option from local officials. Even anti-car Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder makes no mention of it -- he simply says, in essence, that it's about time the feds realized they need to fork over the dough.

Rivera again notes light rail in paragraph 10:

The Columbia River Crossing project could replace the existing six-lane bridge with new spans containing five or six lanes in each direction, plus room for either light rail or bus rapid transit. Toll charges might apply. Or the existing bridge might be re-employed, though its two outmoded spans date to 1917 and 1958, respectively.

Wait, did you catch that? Toll charges might apply.

It turns out that the I-5 bridge was selected as one of the six Corridors of the Future because, according to a Federal Highway Administration spokesman in paragraph 17, "the potential use of tolls, and the possibility of variable charges, helped make the Columbia River Crossing stand out." (Translation on "variable charges": the feds liked that local officials were willing to consider higher tolls during rush hour.)

So that bridge may get built -- though probably not for nearly a decade -- but it will mean that Vancouver residents who work in Portland will pay the lion's share of crossing fees. And if they have to cross during rush hour? Well, too bad, so sad. Get out your debit card.

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