CRC – The Biggest Swindle Ever For Clark County?

by lewwaters

PickpocketIt is no secret that much of Clark County, Washington holds a very negative view of the Columbia River Crossing project (CRC). The more the layers of this scam are pulled back, the more we appear justified in our disdain for what more and more comes across as a massive swindle to suck revenue out of our own cash-strapped community and give it to Portland, Oregon to help with the massive debt, some $1.6 Billion and growing daily, associated with their bloated light rail line.

Even though Clark County citizens rejected extending their folly into our community in 1995, the push has continued to force Clark County to accept it, even to the point of gerrymandering a sub-district in 2005 in an effort to ‘fix’ the vote to approve a C-TRAN sales tax increase perceived to be a back door funding of light rail that was rejected county-wide in the November 2004 election.

Fast forward to the 2012 elections where we saw another effort to increase our sales tax in order to pay for light rail operations & maintenance soundly defeated in what was widely acknowledged to be a proxy vote on light rail itself, since elected officials have done just about everything they can to deny another direct vote and bring it in anyway.

But that doesn’t stop C-TRAN, TriMet and Metro from forging ahead with their plans as we saw efforts from C-TRAN to just bypass voters and get the money out of us another way, once again denying us a vote on their chosen way.

Although trying to continually shroud themselves in secrecy or diversions to foist this boondoggle on us, the curtain has been peeled back some by the work of forensic accountant, Tiffany Couch who was hired to wade through a massive document drop after a Freedom of Information Act request by now County Commissioner David Madore, a highly successful businessman here in Clark County.

Even through the lack of cooperation, Ms. Couch has uncovered some shocking information related to the CRC that elected officials continue to try to ignore or divert attention from by calling her integrity into question, trying to demean her findings as ‘biased,’ their own heavy bias in order to force this project into our community against our will ignored and denied.

Ms. Couch’s latest revelation posted at Couv.com, CRC internal budget reveals cost shifting to Clark County is both shocking as well as it reinforces what I have long maintained, the lion’s share of the expense of this project designed primarily to benefit Portland, Oregon over our own community is solidly placed on our backs.

Portland wants it, but we are to be stuck with paying the bills for it, even to include projects in Oregon, some outside of the so called ‘Benefit Area’ of the CRC.

Ms. Couch explains, after discussing the foot dragging and efforts to prevent her from seeing a detailed budget for the project,

“Their detailed budget reveals the bridge cost at $800 million and the Oregon interchange at $995 million. But their false advertising shifts $400 million from one category to the other showing the bridge cost at $1.2 billion and the Oregon interchange at $595 million. The scheme sticks Clark County Commuters with an extra $400 million in tolls for Oregon interchanges.” (See detailed color coded maps to further explain at the Couv.com link above)

That’s right, Portland is stealthily sticking us with $400 Million in bills for improvements and expansions to infrastructure inside their community and handing us the bill.

As well as uncovering this sleight of hand trick, her audit also revealed plenty of pork in “non-project related expenditures” some well outside of the so-called Benefit Area.”

$250,000 to $344,000 for Portland Steel Bridge improvements
$5,000,000 to 6,875,000 for Hood River channel restoration (60 miles east)
$7,280,000 to $10,015,000 for a bike pedestrian bridge from Hayden Island to CRC
$37,200,000 to $51,178,000 for Ruby Junction in Gresham
$6,270,000 to $8,544,000 for bike pedestrian ramp to Vancouver waterfront
$7,575,000 to $10,420,000 for a museum
$11,236,400 to $15,450,000 Lewis River confluence (20 miles north in Woodland)
$2,000,000 for an administrative addition to a Portland Tri-Met office
$25,600,000 to $35,220,000 for a lid over a section of freeway

Bear in mind, we in Clark County have not been asking for this project, it has been forced onto us against our will, as expressed at the ballot box multiple times now by proxy and once by a direct vote.

So why are we getting stuck with the bills for improvements to an aging bridge in downtown Portland and a facility in Gresham, Oregon?

Why are we paying to build on to TriMet’s offices in Portland?

And nearly $10.5 Million for a “museum?” A museum for what? And where?

Bear in mind that this entire has little to do with ending the congestion seen daily through the I-5 corridor, improving freight or making travel safer. Those are only the selling points being used to force this down our throats, as was revealed early last year in an unrelated Oregon Supreme Court ruling where it was stated,

“The massive Interstate 5 bridge and freeway project is a “political necessity” to persuade Clark County residents to accept something they previously didn’t want—a MAX light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver.”

Hence, the often heard comment from Portland, “no light rail, no bridge.”

The Sunday January 27, 2012 Columbian article, Strictly business: About that ‘socialist’ light-rail line speaks of a visit to our community by Portland State University economist Tom Potiowsky touting their light rail line and telling us,

“You need to get over the notion that light rail is a socialist scheme to undermine family values.”

While it may be debatable as to whether or not it is a socialist “scheme,” there is now little doubt that it is a massive swindle on the citizens of Clark County. And quite likely the largest swindle our community has ever faced.

It is time we demand the plug be pulled on this swindle and a criminal investigation be launched to fully pull back the curtain and find out just what CRC and officials supporting it are doing with our money.

It is past time they were held accountable and if warranted, serve time.

11 Comments to “CRC – The Biggest Swindle Ever For Clark County?”

  1. There is no lie they won’t tell. Scum, the lot of them.

  2. Some more context. The Base Cost Estimate (i.e. the “itemized budget” they told me did not exist) is listed in 2011 dollars. There are two of them. One for a “Full Build” option and one for a “Phase 1 Option.” These range in the $2.5 to $2.7 Billion dollar range. One must then compare these “Base Cost Estimates” to the 134 page CEVP report (Cost Estimate Validation Process). This is a methodology that basically says…if we are to build this $2.5 billion project in 2018 what will it cost? They have basically added 38% to the Base Cost Estimate for risk, inflation, cost escalation, etc. and said for this phase 1 project, we say there’s a 60% chance it will cost $3.1 Billion and a 90% chance it will cost $3.5. Hence, the $3.5 Billion project cost we have today.

    In an attempt to reconcile the Base Cost Estimate to the CEVP report to the “Map” that shows the cost of the project I realized that the $3.5 billion price tag we’re currently accustomed to, is actually for the Phase 1 Option. This eliminates the Victory Interchange Braid, the Marine Drive Flyover, and the SR 500 NB ramp.

    If we were to do a full build project, the CEVP report estimates the cost to be $3.7 Billion.

    Additionally, by looking at the Base Cost Estimate report, which is so detailed that it tells us, by interchange the amount of linear feet of pavement that will be laid down….I was able to determine that the CRC’s “map” purportedly showing the cost of the interchanges, bridge and transit portions DOES NOT RECONCILE TO THEIR OWN BUDGETS. In essence, what we find is that the actual cost of the bridge, per their estimates is MUCH LOWER than the map. The cost of the interchanges is MUCH HIGHER. Essentially, they have pushed the cost of interchanges into the cost of the map…ostensibly to make it easier for legislators to stomach their state’s contribution. The effect, however, means that SW Washington toll payers are paying for a large portion of Oregon’s interchanges.

    Lastly, there’s pure pork in the project. From TriMet’s administrative building to a bike and pedestrian bridge at Vancouver’s Waterfront project…to environmental mitigation efforts that are 20 or more miles away from the project area. And the “Curation Facility”…that’s code speak for a museum at Fort Vancouver. How else would you get the buy in of the Fort…where plenty of land and likely the barracks hospital will be taken away?

    When you see the range of numbers the first (low) number you see is directly off the base cost estimate report. The larger number is my attempt to reconcile the base cost estimate to the CEVP escalated number. Effectively a factor of approximately 37%.

    The pre-escalation price of the bridges to tear them down and rebuild them is just $600 Million. Once you escalate that price to year of expenditure dollars, as per the CEVP report, you get to $791 Million. This is nearly ½ Billion LESS than the CRC’s escalated price of $1.2 Billion!

    Thank you, everyone!

  3. “Curation Facility”?? Don’t you just love government-speak. And, we’re paying someone to dream up this crap.

    Thanks for the outstanding investigative work Tiffany. The whole thing makes me wanna puke.

  4. I wonder if we shall get to see how the modern political scientists have rigged the law to allow legislators to benefit, no doubt legally, from every cent put toward this. They will have stock in the companies or a subsidiary thereof. We will be expected to ‘understand’ no wrong doing has occurred. I know it, you know it and at one time they knew it. Welcome to the greed our constitution so aptly addresses.

  5. Wow, I am sickened by the thought of all of that abuse. I have one issue, How is it that so many were in on what mounts to theft and worse, how could so many willing to countenance such abuse of power? Is it possible? Is it just the standard operating procedure? How many are involved?

  6. Just call for a seperate piece of legislation in Olympia asking for a seperate metropolitan service district of our own. Tell Portland and Metro and all of their little friends to KMA! Make our own way… say something Obama says… YES WE CAN!

  7. Tiffany, that is the most devastating objective analysis of CRC I have ever seen. The fact that no press outlets are carrying this information is very concerning – it either means you are wrong or they are corrupt. Hopefully, Benton can get this information in front of Inslee. (I would have hoped a Democratic legislator could be trusted to deliver such news.)

  8. It starts at local government. The graft is systemic! It is very obvious once you attempt to enact the freedom of information rights. It is very disheartening to discover how intrenched our representation has become!

  9. Tiffany – Thank you very much for the additional context you provided here. If there is any explanation for the discrepancy between Oregon interchange and bridge estimates and those you calculated from their data, it would be well if it were quickly clarified. The idea that CRC would move ~$500 million from the cost of their interchanges onto the “bridge cost” is truly disturbing.

    Am I correct in assuming that you will make your latest work as outlined here known to all of our legislators? The widest distribution you feel comfortable with would be desirable.

    We already have faced the misrepresentation of the bridge purpose to hide the goal of connecting Portland to Vancouver via light rail. That was a scam. If you prove to be right, this it is an even more egregious scam of the citizens of Washington.

    SCAM: To intentionally mislead a person or persons with the goal of financial or other gain.

  10. Most legislators in the local area are aware of this, but I’m working to make them more aware in the coming days.

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