Portland bridge plan appears 10 times the expected cost

By Richard Leonetti,

The planning and costs for the Portland-Vancouver seem to be way off the charts.   Why should it take so long and cost so much?   The latest version is to replace two bridges now in place of about 3,150 ft in length. The new one will include 3 lanes each way but have available six lanes each way for a total of 12 lanes. Something over $3 billion covers the highway portion with another $1 billion for the light rail and bikes: a total of over $4 billion.

Now compare this to the recently completed St Anthony Falls Bridge near Minneapolis finished 9/18/08. This is about the same width as the Columbia Bridge, consisting of two bridges with 5 lanes each way plus 14 ft shoulders that can be later used for light rail or dedicated bus lanes. (probably more cost effective than light rail). The bridge over the Mississippi is only 1,223 ft long so the Columbia span needs to be 2 1/2 times longer.

But here the comparison astounds:  the Minneapolis bridge took only 47 weeks to build and cost only $234 million. We have already spent more time talking about the Columbia Bridge and are proposing to spend somewhere between 12 and 20 times as much building it. Even if our bridge were to cost twice as much per foot, it should barely top $1 billion–and it should not cost twice as much per foot to build.

What is wrong with Portland?

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