CRC Could Cost River Manufacturers $116M in Lost Profits

By Eric Florip, February 27, 2013, The Columbian

The Columbia River Crossing’s proposed 116-foot bridge height could cost three major river manufacturers up to $116 million in lost profits, project officials told the U.S. Coast Guard in a crucial bridge permit application filed last month.

Thompson Metal Fab, Oregon Iron Works and Greenberry Industrial all stand to take a financial hit if the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement is built with 116 feet of head room, as planned. The existing span connecting Vancouver and Portland offers as much as 178 feet of clearance when lifted.

To mitigate that impact, the CRC expects to pay off all three manufacturers for lost revenue, according to other documents filed with the Coast Guard. The application cites ongoing discussions and “confidentiality agreements,” and the CRC didn’t publicly disclose just how much those payments might be.

It would be up to the manufacturers themselves to decide what to do with any compensation, according to the CRC. But project leaders offered at least one suggestion: A study filed with the application lists more than a dozen other possible sites where the businesses could relocate at least part of their operations downstream of the new bridge. But most of those sites — as far away as Tacoma or Bellingham — would push them out of the Vancouver-Portland area.

Despite those impacts, the CRC says in the application that more than 99 percent of all river traffic would be unaffected by a 116-foot-high bridge.

The bridge permit application, filed Jan. 30, was released late Tuesday in response to a public records request by The Columbian and other media.

In addition to replacing the I-5 Bridge, the $3.5 billion CRC would rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River and extend light rail into Vancouver.

The Coast Guard must approve a bridge permit for the project to move forward. CRC officials are hoping for a decision by Sept. 30; they’re hoping to begin construction by late 2014.

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