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New coalition calls for “CRC 2.0″ and a new planning process

Posted by on November 5th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Anti 12-lane CRC Ride-37
Groups want to start the
planning process over.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A coalition of five local non-profit groups are calling for “an immediate restart of the deadlocked I-5 planning process.”

The Coalition for a Livable Future, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Environment Oregon, Environment Washington, and Upstream Public Health just issued a joint news release saying they want a new plan for the Columbia River Crossing.

Here’s the word from the release:

“Seeing no regional agreement on the size, funding, congestion management, or design of the project, the five groups are calling for a restart of the deadlocked planning process. The groups are promoting a new approach – a “CRC 2.0” – that starts with region’s shared values of economic vitality, affordable transportation, safe and healthy neighborhoods, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

So far, planning for the CRC project — which has lost serious momentum in recent months as many politicians have questioned its viability — has already cost taxpayers in the region $80 million dollars (and has another $50 million committed to it).

Besides the fact that many key components of the project’s construction have still not been agreed upon, the new coalition points to the election of Tim Leavitt in Vancouver has yet another sign that the current project is doomed. Leavitt has been outspoken against tolls on a new I-5 bridge, and tolls are seen as an imperative part of the project.

This coalition calls for a new plan that would use “least cost planning principles and include land use changes, transportation investments, and management strategies”. The major difference they’d like to see in a new plan is that the design of the project happen “outside of the Departments of Transportation”.

In a statement BTA Executive Director Scott Bricker said,

“Rather than pick apart the $4 billion, unpopular version, we should start with our shared goals and see what could be done to meet them. In this economy, we should be maintaining and optimizing the roads we already have, not building bigger and more expensive ones that degrade our communities.”

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Comments
  • Joe Rowe November 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I live just blocks from Interstate 5, and my fear is that the BTA and CLF are going to promote a 10 lane CRC, possibly 8 lanes.

    We need a plan that says NO CRC.

    The bridge is not the problem. Myself and friends were going to do a bike protest ride on the bridge but the bridge was always moving too fast, even in rush hour. The problems are single occupancy vehicles clogging up the freeway North and South of the bridge.

    Any new plan should solve problems, not create new ones, or fabricate the past design flaws of transit.

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  • kitty November 5, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    awesome i hope they get 2.0. I didn’t realize Tim Levitt won. that is a little shocking, but if anything positive will come out of it, it’s the effective torpedo hit to the current CRC (he being 100% against tolls). I hope something good comes out of 2.0, a lot has changed since CRC 1 began in 2001.

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  • Allan November 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Is the ‘no-build’ option really so bad?

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  • AaronF November 5, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Leavitt can be as pro or anti CRC tolling as he wants… I’m not sure how much pull he will have with WSDOT, but my impression is that it probably won’t be much.

    I wonder what Rex will say.

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  • Peter Smith November 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    “outside of the Department of Transportation”

    zing! i like!

    the DOT can be consulted with, but they shouldn’t own these projects anymore — they’re too mired in backwards, car-centric thinking.

    i like the idea of a walk/bike/transit bridge. if there’s any room leftover, we can talk about allowing cars to cross it, too. :)

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  • peejay November 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Can we have our $80 million back? Can we hold accountable all of the officials who allowed this money to be spent so foolishly for nothing?

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  • Shantastic November 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I agree that taking this project out of the hands of the DOTs and putting power into the regional, local authority is a move in a positive direction! I would hope that in this “2.0 phase” some mistakes from round one won’t repeat themselves.

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  • Aneurin November 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    @6: Washington State has paid for the brunt of the design costs, I think Oregon is out $13 million or so.

    Yeah, I think with Leavitt’s election, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

    Let’s just cantilever an improved bike/ped facility off of the west side of the bridge and call it good. Otherwise, we’ll just end up burning more time and dollars on a grandiose bridge design that no one, outside of the freight community, wants.

    The other gating factor is a potential light rail operations vote in Clark County. There’s little chance of that vote passing, unless they restrict the transit improvement district completely to West Vancouver. There’s just way too much opposition to LRT by the builders’ association.

    It’s really too bad that a grand compromise on the project couldn’t have been figured out long ago, but now voters perceive tolls to be burdensome, so the pressure is on.

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  • Dan November 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    The road users (Vancouver residents who elected Leavitt) don’t want tolls to pay for a new facility? Then I think we should let them sit in traffic jams on the existing bridge for as long as they like. If they’d rather sit for 30 minutes than pay a $2 toll, fine by me — they’re the ones who know best what their time is worth, after all.

    But in the meantime, let’s run the carpool lane all the way across the Glenn Jackson and open it up to semis so that commerce isn’t impeded.

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  • Andy November 5, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Leavitt pandered to win. He wants to scrub the budget of everything related to government to promote business and investment. The state of WA won’t listen to a word his says.

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  • Jeff Bernards November 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I spoke at the Metro meeting 1 1/2 years ago & stated they should raise the toll gates now. They insist that the current bridges are falling down, so if it’s a new bridge or a fixed bridge it needs money. Failing to act responsibly by adding tolls now only hides the true cost of this fiasco. It’s very disingenuous for the politicians to portray to us that we can have a new bridge without paying anything. They say the tolls on a new bridge would cut down on SOV, if that’s the case lets put tolls up now and maybe we’ll see the current congestion lessen and the need for a new bridge disappear. If the citizens don’t want the congestion or tolling I suggest they move back to Oregon, where they work and save us all some money & CO2 at the same time. As a taxpayer I’m only willing to invest in transportation options that address, climate change and peak oil realities anything less is wasteful.

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  • Aneurin November 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    You know, all of these calls for tolls on the existing span are nice, but are completely devoid of the political reality at hand. No one at the state level is calling for tolling the existing span, and if they did, they’d be recalled. If you want tolls so bad, then start tolling the Sunset, Hwy 217, or I-5 South. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    Leavitt hasn’t said that the bridge isn’t going to appear without a new revenue source, he just prefers a Southwest Washington regional sales tax or a bump in the property tax. But voters didn’t get that part of his campaign message.

    The tri-county’s ability to have growth management and density is predicated on having the Clark County release valve. If there’s no partnership, than you can pretty much kiss regional economic vibrancy good bye.

    So we are at an impasse. Comments from Oregonians here would seem to favor tolling the existing span. Clark County residents don’t want to pay tolls, heck they probably don’t want to pay for yet another increase in the regressive sales tax to pay for LRT operation.

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  • G.A.R. November 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    My first problem with the existing spans (I-5 and I-205) is that there is no provision for lower speed motorized vehicles. The commuter of tomorrow is not in a vehicle that can comfortably go 60 mph. When I have errands that a bike can’t do in the time allotted, I consider my Vespa. It goes about 40 mph. I can’t use it if my errands extend to Vancouver. That is amazing to me. How shortsighted! CRC 1.0 did nothing for me. Maybe CRC 2.0 can take a look at the real mix of users this bridge needs to support.

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  • Vance Longwell November 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Too funny. The same groups holding this up for years, ostensibly connected politically and ideologically, to the very groups who called for the plan in the first place are now going to spin this like it wasn’t them at all.

    The whole country is at a dead stand-still while the elitist ideologues on the left bury us in taxes and oppressive legislation. There will be backlash. Hope you have a helmet.

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  • Jeff Bernards November 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Tolling works on the Golden Gate Bridge because it’s an expensive transportation option to just maintain, not build new. Rush hour traffic is kept manageable thanks to tolling which is $5. Vancouver thinks a $1 toll is sufficient. I can’t wait until the Chinese take away our credit card, the sooner the better. You’ll carpool or Mass Transit when faced with having to pay the true cost of your choices. We need a regional gas tax, so we who drive, pay to drive.

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  • kitty November 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Vance must have wandered over from oregonlive.com… It is pretty simple, if you want a bridge, pay for it yourself. It is not like a school or a library, I don’t benefit from it. Yes, this line of argument is a joke. True we all benefit (if indirectly from the bridge) but only in the short term. Long term, our way of living and commuting will cost us more, socially and ecologically. Think long term. I would rather the region spend $6billion now on education and have the best workforce and standard of living in 20 years, rather than build another bridge.

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  • are November 5, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    okay to leave the SOVs to the sharks, but we do all eat freight. what is required for freight. toll the rest and provide suitable bike/ped.

    80 mil for what? drawings and discussion? or did I miss something?

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  • Donna November 5, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    You missed nothing, are. That’s exactly what that $80 mil was spent on.

    I think Jeff’s right. I suspect Chinese are going to take away our credit card well before this bridge is ready to be built and that will be that.

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  • John Lascurettes November 5, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    @Jeff Bernards:

    The Golden Gate Transit Authority (which is made up of San Francisco and Marin Counties) levies the tolls on the GG Bridge. Those tolls do pay for the maintenance of the bridge, but they also subsidize the ferry system and GG Transit bus system between Marin and SF.

    CalTrans levies the tolls on all the other bridges in the bay area (and they all have tolls!) and again, it goes toward maintenance and subsidizing other mass transit options (BART, buses and ferries).

    My point is, the tolls not only pay for the bridges in the bay area, but they also help pay for the alternate transportation.

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  • John Lascurettes November 5, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    More on the GG Bridge’s tolls from this page:

    WHY WAS THE TOLL INCREASED TO $5.00 IN 2002?
    Currently, 50 percent of bus and ferry operations are funded by Bridge tolls, with another 30 percent coming from transit fares, and the remainder being met by federal and state subsidies. While many Bay Area counties have enacted local sales taxes to support public transit, Marin and Sonoma counties have not. Further, the Golden Gate Bridge District does not have the authority to levy taxes. Therefore, the use of surplus Bridge toll revenue has been the only local means available to support financial shortfalls of the operation of the District’s bus and ferry services.

    Note the GG Transit Authority is SF, Marin and Sonoma counties.

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  • John Lascurettes November 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Looks like I had it wrong on the CalTrans tolls on all the other bridges. The tolls pay for maintenance and for seismic retrofitting. Nothing about subsidizing other transportation. See FAQ #8

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  • joe adamski November 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Early on in this planning process,when they were still putting brown kraft paper on the wall full of grandoise concepts at Jantzen Beach Mall, I had to ask them about the no build option. I might as well asked them about the sun coming up in the west.I was politely dismissed as the village idiot by the expert planner CRC provided.
    This is a process driven by planners and those who stand to profit at the expense of the larger community. CRC does little to actually address congestion,transportatin options or development by leveraging transportation dollars to develop surrounding districts with well designed transportation infrastructure. Its simply build a big enough bridge to build our credentials or bank account. Vancouver doesn’t want to pay for it, Portland doesn’t want the crap that comes with it. Nobody wants to build it but the ‘experts’. So why even go down this road? If it gets bad enough, solutions will be found.
    Vancouver, or especially, Clark County, does not want to pay for mass transit. Let them stew in the traffic jam every night until they reach the point where their thinking is changed. Portland neighborhoods should not be decimated to facilitate the faster commute to Clark County. So why should Portland pay for the ‘privelage’? let gridlock occur,if thats what the big fear is. The obvious solution will become apparent.
    And I bet the solution will not be a big fat bridge.

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  • Jim Labbe November 6, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Informative press release. It is sure is great to see all these groups are now pulling in the same direction, while the pro freeway bridge forces are splintering. It seems like an important time to keep a unified pressure up for a totally different approach.

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  • David Feldman November 6, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I don’t know how much traction the anti-toll idea will have since Governor Gregoire came to speak to Vancouver businesspeople and was rather firm in a no tolls/no bridge statement.

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  • SteveG November 6, 2009 at 8:05 am

    I think the key is to try to expand everyone’s options as economically as possible.

    Why not toll one “through lane” in each direction on the existing facility, and use the revenues to shore up the existing bridge, to fix the railroad bridge and, IF NECESSARY AND DESIRED BY CLARK COUNTY RESIDENTS, to build a light rail bridge across to Vancouver?

    If freight operators and individuals are unwilling to pay for the use of the tolled through-lane, they can stay in the un-tolled (slow) lane. Meanwhile, freight haulers, busses full of commuters and people in a hurry (rich and poor alike) will happily pay a couple of bucks to enter the toll lane and bypass the traffic jam.

    Seems pretty simple, no?

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  • Marcus Griffith November 6, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I all for the third bridge option–build a third bridge that handles mass transit and bike traffic and leave the two car bridges in place.

    If mass transit is done right, might not need the thrid bridge. And by right, I mean for it to go North form the Convention Center all the way to Salmon Creek; and not dead end at Clark College.

    I find it amusing that the BTA’s infamous Michelle walked out of the planning part of the CRC and now claims her voice wasn’t heard.

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  • Blah Blah Blah November 6, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I always thought a tunnel would be a pretty cool idea. Then leave at least one of the current I-5 spans for local traffic, or even freight traffic.

    My guess nothing will ever happen.

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  • Matt Picio November 6, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Aneurin (#12) – That’s apples and oranges, there are alternatives to the Sunset, 217 and I-5 south. If they fall apart, it doesn’t paralyze commerce. Also, none of those highways are elevated, so they don’t have quake compliance to worry about, nor an underlying structure that also wears and requires replacement.

    The nearest alternatives to the I-5 bridge are I-205, Longview, and Cascade Locks.

    No one wants to pay tolls. That’s fine – we can either retrofit the existing bridge (and hopefully find the funds to do so), or operate the current structure “as-is” until safety becomes a concern and then close the bridge to motorized traffic. I guarantee that losing the I-5 bridge would convince a lot of Clark County residents that tolls are an acceptable option.

    G.A.R. (#13) – There never will be a provision without changes to the law. The minimum speed limit on Interstate highways is 45mph. For a new bridge to accommodate your needs it woulc have to encompass additional traffic lanes that are not part of the limited-access highway. Good luck getting support for that.

    Jeff (#15) – Tolling works on the Golden Gate because the nearest alternative adds 20 miles to the drive, all on Bay area freeways.

    kitty (#16) – We all benefit from it, all the time. A large percentage of local and regional commerce uses that highway to transport goods. Most of the things we buy now are made in China, and most chinese imports sold in Oregon come into the state through Seattle and over that bridge.

    Of course, if you’re a locavore and non-consumer, then it might not benefit you personally – in which case I retract my last statement.

    Marcus (#26) – It’s still a legitimate complaint, walking out is still a message, and they didn’t hear it.

    It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback the BTA, Scott Bricker, and Michelle Poyourow – we don’t do their jobs, and everything seems so clearcut from our own perspectives. Try doing the job when you’re fighting local, state and federal agencies while taking flack from 3,000 members of your own organization, and the community at-large. They do the best they can, and generally they do a good job and help steer the larger debate on transportation.

    If you don’t like it, become a member and vote in a new board. Or apply to work there, and change it from within – or form your own organization. Anything, really – opinions carry more weight when they’re backed with some sort of action.

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  • John Reinhold November 6, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Marcus: Michelle walked out after YEARS in the process. The CRC process has IGNORED everyone except the “build it big and build it now” camp.

    Here is what we need to do (transportation related):

    1. Toll both Columbia river crossings, now.
    2. Significantly increase bus service to/from Vancouver.
    3. Paint 24 hour HOV lanes in both directions and on both crossings, and enforce them.

    Those are the easy and quick solutions. Now on to the more long term solutions.

    4. Modify the railroad bridge to move it’s lift span, and reconfigure the Columbia channel to align it with the hump in the I5 bridge. By aligning the hump and the railroad lift, we get rid of the dangerous S turn for ships and barges to go under the hump, and we reduce the need for I5 bridge lifts to almost zero.

    5. Restrict pleasure craft (sailboats and yachts) from having bridge lifts during peak periods.

    6. Build a small local bridge to Hayden Island from Portland, including planning for Light Rail on it in the future. Close the I5 ramps to Hayden Island to all except emergency vehicles. This gets rid of the merging at Hayden Island, and also gives two bridges to the Island in the event of emergency.

    7. Institute commuter rail between Portland and Vancouver on the existing railroad tracks.

    8. Seismically retrofit the existing I5 bridges and while doing so increase the size of the pedestrian and bicycle paths (like the Hawthorne bridge).

    Those 8 things would solve 95% of the problems. Once you do that – you can then start working on these:

    9. Begin planning for a third bridge, preferably a non-interstate bridge.

    10. Begin planning for Light-Rail or BRT access into Clark county.

    Here is what we should be doing (starting NOW) from a regional standpoint to decrease the need for transportation solutions:

    11. Begin work to increase supply of affordable and desirable housing in inner Portland, to reduce the need for people to move to Vancouver.

    12. Begin work to increase quality of Portland schools to reduce the desirability of moving to Vancouver.

    13. Begin work to increase the number of quality jobs in Vancouver to reduce the need for Vancouver residents to commute to Portland.

    I contend that we could probably do all of that and more for less than $4 billion dollars.

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  • Mark November 6, 2009 at 9:56 am

    The most informed suggestion in this discussion is keeping the planning out of the hands of the DOT. Transportation engineers like straight lines and high speed. Several Portland neighborhoods and plenty in Clark County, I imagine, have suffered with one of the engineer’s favorites: the one-way couplet. I live in a neighborhood where the community was asked to be part of the planning, led by transportation folks, for a “new” adaptation of an existing one-way couplet layout. The one thing that could not be part of the agenda? Removing the couplet. If you start with an agenda that says, “build a big, wide bridge,” you sacrifice most of the options that may solve the problems more easily and at a lower cost.

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  • AaronF November 6, 2009 at 10:51 am

    …Dumb Question, but if DOT transportation engineers can’t be trusted to design the new bridge, who can? The BTA?

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  • Todd Boulanger November 6, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    GAR – ‘we’ (some members of the pedestrian bicycle advisory committee of CRC) have in the past pushed for the design of the future bridge to accommodate low speed motorized vehicles NEVs, scooters, etc) in the fourth ‘cell’ of the bridge. [This concept is slowly catching on with the crc engineers - for all the reasons you mentioned.]

    Though it may be halted if the bridge is narrowed. The unreported effect of moving from a 12 lane bridge to a narrower bridge would be to have a narrower bike ped path. At the last PBAC meeting it was tentatively estimated that a 10 lane bridge could only have a pathway of 20 to 23 feet vs. ~24 feet. The width of a path under an 8 lane bridge was not reported.

    These estimates should be provided at the December PBAC meeting.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 6, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    As for Mayor Elect Leavitt’s view on tolls and the new bridge…it is really tolls only as a last resort vs. no tolls ever or no bridge ever. I discussed this issue with him at his election nite party Tuesday.

    [The BIA (Building Industry Association) is one of his big supporters - hosting events for his election, etc. ]

    In the eyes on many of the ‘no-tollers’ … The bi-state toll discussion could be more fruitful if it included a link to what Clark County residents pay in Oregon Income taxes when working in the south. Perhaps a rebate or refund on employment taxes paid.

    One other option not publicly explored / discussed yet would be to ‘roll the toll’ cost into what Oregon Employers directly pay for employee taxes to aid commuters (transit) or in-directly (parking). [Some employers set up tolling accounts for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and pay the cost of the crossing: commute, etc.]

    Perhaps if Portland area employers presented all of these commute items to an employee like their health plan options then it would empower employees to ‘vote’ with their commute options – save money or time.

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  • SE Cyclist November 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    John #29: You’ve provided some good comments, but I think you’re incorrect on some. Bridge lifts are already prohibited during peak periods for all marine traffic.

    The railroad mainline, not just the bridge, are nearly at capacity to accommodate freight trains. A report by the RTC several years ago confirmed this. Commuter rail is not a viable answer.

    It’s more than just the Portland Public Schools that are causing departures from Portland for educational purposes. Some are moving to establish Washington residency for their kids’ planned college education. (I’m thinking of the same thing even though my wife’s an OSU alum.)

    Finally, there’s the income tax versus sales tax debate.

    I really do like your idea of Hayden Island being connected to the rest of Portland by a local bridge rather than the I-5 interchange.

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  • Valkraider November 6, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    @Todd:
    Why is it unfair to toll Clark County bridge users but fair to raise Multnomah county non-users taxes to pay for the new bridge? Do we get a rebate or a refund on our taxes for a bridge we don’t even use?

    And Mayor Elect Leavitt’s signs read “No Tolls”. I find it funny that his story was already changing before the election results were even finalized.

    If you don’t want to pay a toll, don’t drive over the bridge. Get a job in Vancouver – there are plenty of people in Portland who could use your Oregon job…

    Don’t ask me to pay for Clark County’s long commute.

    I am sick of the “We pay Oregon taxes” crap. You don’t want to work and pay taxes in Oregon? Get a job in Washington.

    @AaronF:
    No one wants the BTA to *design* the bridge. Engineers *design* the bridge. What we want is for the DOTs to have less control over the *plans* for the whole solution. DOTs see only highways.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 7, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Hi Valkraider…

    I am just passing on what I hear up here.

    I live and work[ed] up in Vancouver.

    I support the toll.

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  • Lisa G November 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    The only bridge that is falling down is Sellwood and that has to be addressed first. The others are structurally sound, although they could use some upgrades. The railroad bridge is a completely separate entity owned by Union Pacific.

    The original planning process might have gone somewhere without such a waste of money if the planners had invited more economists to their meetings. The sky is not falling, only the illusions.

    The new process must take our climate action plans into account.

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