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Oregon House committee amends CRC bill

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 19th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

House Joint Memorial 22, a bill in the Oregon legislature that some feared would have sent a strong message to the federal government in support of the controversial Columbia River Crossing project, made it out of committee yesterday; but the version that was voted on is much different than the original.

As we reported last month, the original version of HJM 22 urged the federal government to fund the controversial project. The bill was far from objective and, in addition to urging federal investment, it characterized the project as a "comprehensive solution" that was needed to "expand capacity" of I-5 between Oregon and Washington.

The bill raised eyebrows from transportation advocates and from lawmakers who are wary of the project's merits and its price tag — which some estimate could be as high as $10 billion. As HJM 22 worked its way through the legislature, 20 state legislators (8 Republicans, 12 Democrats) signed onto a letter calling for a pause on the CRC project.

During a work session of the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee held yesterday, lawmakers voted 6-2 to move the amended version of HJM 22 (download PDF here) onto the House Revenue Committee.

The amended version of HJM 22 (HJM 22-5) reads less like a press release by CRC project staff, and instead, makes it clear that the Oregon legislature cares about making improvements to the existing bridge and the highways and interchanges in the general vicinity of the Columbia River.

To help clarify what I mean, here are the final paragraphs of the two bills (emphasis mine):

Original:

"The Seventy-sixth Legislative Assembly respectfully urges the federal government of the United States of America to partner with the states of Oregon and Washington and invest federal highway and transit funding in the Columbia River Crossing Project in recognition of the national benefits of the project."

Amended version:

"The Seventy-sixth Legislative Assembly respectfully urges the federal government of the United States of America to join with the States of Oregon and Washington to invest federal highway and transit funding in the building, rebuilding and modernization of the bridges, interchanges and interstate highway within the Columbia Crossing area, in recognition of the national benefits inherent in the area."

Representative Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), co-Chair of the Committee, says the bill was moved "without recommendation" and that "discussions will continue" in the House Revenue Committee. He wrote via email to BikePortland that,

"It is our intention to spend significant time in our remaining committee meetings on discussions of the space between Portland and Vancouver. If we come to some conclusions we may want to pass the Memorial on from the Revenue Committee."

The original version of the bill is here and the amended version is here (PDF).

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Comments
  • DK April 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    The existing bridges are so much more attractive than any of the flat-deck bridges proposed. It should be recognized and registered for it's historic signigicance so there's never again threat of replacement.

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    • Jack April 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      I disagree. If you want to put form before function, do so with something you alone are paying for. When we're talking about billions of public dollars, asthetics should not be the top priority.

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      • q`Tzal April 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm

        Hear hear.

        Bridges are primarily a "function" that exists due to need without the need for "form".

        If "form" and design aesthetic is important enough for you to fork over your money for lobby for an extra line item on the state and federal tax form hoping and praying that a government committee's sense of art is compatible with your's.

        Don't waste the rest of our tax dollars pushing for nonfunctional bridge parts.

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        • rider April 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm

          I suggest a trip to former USSR countries to the areas built post WW2 to see the "benefits" of not taking form into consideration at all. Not a place I want to live.

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          • Andrew April 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm

            Or just take a look at the Marquam bridge vs the Fremont. I don't mind paying a bit extra to get something that doesn't disfigure Oregon for the next 100 years.

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        • Dave Thomson April 20, 2011 at 9:41 am

          I strongly disagree. If we are going to build a bridge then aesthetics are very important. We are going to live with this thing for 50-100 years (well, probably not that long for me personally) and it should inspire, not depress. The Marguam is a perfect example of what will happen if we don't demand better for the state DOTs.

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        • DK April 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

          If "function" is your argument, I'm pretty sure all the pleasingly aesthetic parts of the I5's existing bridges are functional. Same is true of the St. Johns, Hawthorne, Steel, Broadway, etc. ...Function doesn't have to be ugly.

          More importantly, the existing bridges are just that...Existing. Already built. Already paid for. Already in use. Why not just maintain them, since they still FUNCTION?

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      • DK April 20, 2011 at 10:07 am

        I think you missed the main point. Billions is the price quoted for the NEWLY proposed, eyesore of a deck bridge. The existing bridge is likely to cost FAR LESS to upgrade and maintain (this cost is not outlined, so I'm simply assuming here). ...AND IT LOOKS BETTER, while protecting some of our local heritage!

        We just spent millions to repaint the existing bridge less than a decade ago. Let's keep modernizing it and get the most of the investment made.

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  • Jackattak April 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Wait, they're still planning on building that stupid thing? I thought we had squashed this long ago?

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  • Spencer Boomhower April 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks for the good reporting, Jonathan! I was watching this committee live and somehow missed the significance of this amendment. What I did take away was: 1) Reps. Jefferson Smith, Tobias Read, and Jim Weidner seem to be approaching the CRC with the healthiest skepticism, and 2) Rep. Smith seems to have more fun in committee than all the other reps combined (while still making exceedingly sharp points).

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  • Another Doug April 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Greenwashing. With ODOT in control of the process, CRC is and will be the only project proposed for "the building, rebuilding and modernization of the bridges, interchanges and interstate highway within the Columbia Crossing area."

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