Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 7th, 2011 at 11:23 am
(Photo © J. Maus)
The event is being hosted by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, an umbrella non-profit that represents 12 neighborhoods in North and Northeast Portland. At tonight’s forum, residents will be able to share their opinion about the project with local leaders including Metro President Tom Hughes, Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, and state representatives Tina Kotek, Lew Frederick and Chip Shields.
The CRC is a vast, multi-billion dollar highway widening project. It would include widening of I-5 and several new and wider interchanges and a new bridge over the Columbia River. The project has already cost well over $100 million just in planning costs and it has been dogged by controversy for several years.
However, just as the design was recently shot down by a panel of experts and governors of Washington and Oregon were told to go back to the drawing board, the project has managed to actually gain momentum thanks to some high-profile nods in recent weeks.
CRC backers rejoiced when President Obama announced he would set aside $400 million for the project in his budget proposal back in February. Then, just last week, Obama’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also added his stamp of approval to the project, saying it stands as a “national model”.
At a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Vancouver last month, much of the discussion was dominated by the CRC, with many key elected officials and much of the public showing their support of the project.
This unexpected federal attention helped give Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber the political breathing room to announce in a speech last week that he was ready to move forward on the CRC. “I’m glad to report we have an opportunity to get all project approvals this year,” said Kitzhaber, “complete engineering in 2012, and break ground in 2013.”
As official momentum seems to be on the project’s side, CRC critics are sharpening their arguments. Last week, two local transportation and public health activists made their voices heard in the opinion pages of The Oregonian. Mara Gross of Coalition for a Livable Future and Mel Rader from Upstream Public Health said now’s the time for Governor Kitzhaber not to move forward, but to “back away” from the “mega-project.” “His choice” they wrote, “– either an overpriced tribute to the 1950s or a strategic, targeted solution — will be our legacy.”
To share your thoughts on the CRC project, consider attending the public forum tonight at Concordia University’s Luther Hall (2811 NE Holman St., Room 121). If you can’t attend, CRC project staff are hosting a public “listening session” this Thursday from 12:00 to 2:00 pm at the Portland Expo Center (2060 N Marine Drive).