Earlier this week I heaped scorn on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s penchant for serving up B.S. Given how harsh I was, I figure it’s my duty to point out when a Northwest transportation agency tells it like it really is.
So here’s a remarkably straight scoop from the Oregon DOT — essentially admitting that ODOT is running out of money. In a nutshell, the agency has looked at traffic volume and gas tax revenue trends, along with its debt service commitments, and has concluded it will have to make a 50 percent cut in its construction budget by 2015. And what’s especially admirable is that they back up their gloomy forecast with real numbers and clear-eyed analysis, not spin. Some selected quotes:
- “The latest revenue projection estimates that…half a billion dollars (about 7 percent) of expected revenues evaporated due to the economic downturn and reduced driving in the face of high gas prices.“
- “ODOT’s State Highway Fund resources are now essentially fully committed to debt service, the costs of running the agency, and maintaining highways, leaving virtually no state funding for new capital projects…“
- “[B]ecause the federal fuels tax has not been raised since 1993, the funding level for the federal highway and transit programs is about $15 billion more per year than the Highway Trust Fund is taking in…If Congress does not find additional resources for the transportation program…Oregon’s annual federal highway program funding [could fall by] $150-175 million, and the state’s annual transit funding could fall around $30 million.”
- “Over the last decade, construction costs have surged…in 2010 costs remained nearly 70 percent higher than they were in 2001.“
The only piece of spin I could find in ODOT’s statement was this: “Faced with these funding challenges, ODOT will be focusing on its most basic mission of maintaining and preserving the highway system, investing scarce resources strategically to minimize the deterioration of the system.” But meanwhile, I haven’t heard anything about ODOT paring back its support for the wildly expensive project to expand (not just maintain or replace, but actually expand) the Columbia River Crossing.
[Hat tip to Joe Cortright.]