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Paul Guppy, vice president for research at Washington Policy Center, spoke at the “Bridging the Gaps” event in Vancouver on June 4.  An overview of his remarks follows his bio.

According to its website, the Washington Policy Center is an independent, non-partisan think tank that promotes “sound public policy based on free-market solutions.”

Here is Guppy’s bio as found on the Washington Policy Center website:

Guppy is vice president for research at Washington Policy Center. He came to WPC in 1998 after 12 years on the staff of the U.S. Congress, where he served as legislative director, chief of staff and with the House Appropriations Committee, with a focus on budget policy and federal spending. He is the author of numerous published studies and articles, including the Washington State Piglet Book, and is editor of the Policy Guide for Washington State. He specializes in state and local tax systems, health care reform and free market economics. He is a member of the King County Citizens Election Oversight Committee, the Citizen Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences, and the Attorney General’s Eminent Domain Task Force. He also writes WPC’s monthly column in Spokane’s Spokesman Review newspaper. Guppy is a graduate of Seattle University and holds graduate degrees in political science from Claremont Graduate University and the London School of Economics. He lives in Seattle with his wife Diana and their three children.


Overview of the remarks by Guppy

3:30 “What strikes me about this project is the tremendous complexity and bureaucratic nature of it. There are eight government agencies involved.”

4:35 “State agencies and bureaucracies, they have a specific interest that doesn’t always coincide with the general public interest, and I think that’s the distinction that’s going on here.”

4:50 “The Columbia River Crossing*, from a policy view, the mission focus is not on serving the public interest, serving citizen mobility whatever mode that might happen to be, or serving general freedom of movement in our society. What’s interesting about this project, because it involves two states.”

5:54 “Leaving aside just the financing of it, what is it that the public is purchasing, what serves the public interest? No increase in general land miles, no increase in capacity for the general public, but of course the space of two lanes devoted to light rail, which adds almost a third to the cost of the project. So the interest is not in serving citizen mobility, it’s in serving the government agencies involved.”

7:14 Here Guppy gives comparisons between the cost of the CRC project and other transportation projects in the state of Washington.

8:08 “The entire project is really being held hostage to light rail, so the priorities are reversed. What the policy makers are saying is that light rail gets the first dollar, then if everyone cooperates and goes along, then we’ll have some general purpose lanes for the general public to serve the citizen mobility. So I don’t think light rail is actually related to getting the mission done.”

8:48 “If a decision is made to replace this bridge, there are models, both historically and around the country about how that can be done. A recent model is the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007. The federal government and the state put a focus on replacing that bridge, so in 414 days they had built a brand new, seismically strong 10-lane bridge, so they increased the capacity of the crossing, at a cost of $300 million.”

9:24 “Because of the national impact that that dramatic collapse of that bridge had, they cut through the artificial man-made barrier. Suddenly most of that evaporated when it came to replacing this bridge in Minneapolis.”

11:30 “There are successful models that are able to do this, where projects that were more complicated and more expensive than the Columbia River Crossing were completed at less cost and on time. This approach controls risk, costs are known up front, tapping private competition, focusing on the public interest, not the interests of the agencies involved and getting rid of or ignoring, what I think, are the narrow monopolistic interests of the transit agencies involved.”

* The well-documented cost to taxpayers, if the CRC stays on budget, is $10 billion. This was established by the Cortright Report (PDF) which used data from an independent review panel hired by the governors of Washington and Oregon. (View the panel’s final report.)

See our continuing coverage of the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project.

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