Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:44 am
"Expanding the freeway and constructing six new massive interchanges will do tremendous damage to the bike friendliness of communities around the project."
-- From a press release issued today by the BTA
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) issued a statement today in opposition to the Columbia River Crossing project. The statement is by far the BTA's most strongly-worded criticism yet in the 18 months they've been tracking the project.
After Mayor Sam Adams and Portland City Council (and soon thereafter the Project Sponsor's Council) voted in support of building the new I-5 bridge to a size that could accomodate up to 12 lanes, many BTA members and others in the community felt like the project had taken a major turn for the worse.
One day after the council decision, I asked BTA executive director Scott Bricker where he stood on the decision. At that time, Bricker said he was "concerned" that the compromise signed off on by council "would not yield the results we expect," and that, "12 lanes is just a number."
Some BTA members felt Bricker's response was not strong enough. On February 28th, member Steve Gutmann emailed Bricker and wrote that he wanted to cancel his family's monthly donation. Gutmann wrote that he was, "very disappointed with the BTA's unwillingness to call out the Columbia River Crossing project as a gigantic boondoggle."
Now, nearly one month later, Bricker pulls no punches with the BTA's position. In their statement released today, the BTA refers to the CRC as "the massive freeway expansion, known as the Columbia River Crossing."
Here's an excerpt (emphasis mine):
"Widening the freeway to move more cars will generate more traffic in Portland and in Clark County, will speed up climate change by releasing more greenhouse gases, and will spew pollutants into the air around N Portland and Vancouver neighborhoods.
Building bigger freeways is not the solution to the congestion or environmental problems the region is facing. Improving transportation between Vancouver and Portland doesn’t require expanding the freeway. Expanding the freeway and constructing six new massive interchanges will do tremendous damage to the bike friendliness of communities around the project."
I spoke to Bricker about their position this morning.
He said over the past 18 months, the BTA had relied on local elected officials (Metro and Portland City Council) to make decisions about the project, while they focused advocacy efforts solely on the bike and pedestrian facility part of the project. "We thought our leaders' efforts were going well, but they have now failed," he said.
Bricker said City Council's recent vote was a "clarifying moment" for him and the BTA's ability to continue to support the project. He said that vote (as well as a similar resolution passed by Metro) went against the City's stated promises to only support a "right-sized bridge". "They went against those principles," said Bricker. He went on:
"Six months ago we could not have imagined that a bridge like this would have passed through the City Council. We were surprised and disappointed in our local leadership that a major freeway expansion was approved."
Bricker said the BTA will only support a bridge that "moves in a direction of creating healthy and sustainable communities," and that, "clearly, the direction the project is moving would not achieve that."
The BTA now plans to join the existing grassroots opposition to current CRC plans. In their statement they encourage attendance at the upcoming "Build Less Bridge Rally" (12:00 pm, 4/5, Waterfront Park).
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