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Activists hope to weaken CRC ‘signal’ at hearing in Salem today

Posted by on February 11th, 2013 at 11:00 am

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-1
A big day at the capitol for the CRC.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A bill that would officially make it “in the state’s interest” to move forward on the I-5 freeway widening project between Oregon and Washington will be given a public hearing in Salem today. The bill, HB 2800, is being pushed by Governor Kitzhaber and many high-profile Democrats and other backers of the Columbia River Crossing project.

A House Joint Committee will hear invited testimony from the Governor as well as Oregon Transportation Commission chair Pat Egan and ODOT’s Deputy Project Director Kris Strickler. If anti-CRC activists are successful, the committee will also hear from dozens of people speaking out against the bill (and the project in general). According to a Facebook page where activists are organizing carpools to attend the 3:00 pm hearing, there are about 40 people so far who plan to make the trip.

“This is a classic Robert Moses strategy to promise anything to get the project started and then re-work the deal however needed later on.”
— Joe Cortright, economist and CRC critic

HB 2800 looks to be a kinder, gentler version of HB 2260, which was considered “egregiously” pro-CRC and dubbed “the CRC Blank Check Act” by critics when it dropped a few weeks ago. Sources who oppose the project say HB 2800 isn’t nearly as bad, but they remain extremely skeptical.

Economist and outspoken critic of the project, Joe Cortright says while CRC backers are making it seem like HB 2800 put limits on project spending and answers other fiscal concerns with the project, the devil is in the details (and the details are pretty fuzzy). “This is a classic Robert Moses strategy to promise anything to get the project started,” says Cortright, “and then re-work the deal however needed (ignored conditions, forgiveness, more money) later on… Superficially, this bill isn’t as egregious as HB 2260; But given our experience with CRC and “conditions” [contained in HB 2800] it’s hardly a reason to be reassured.”

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-22
State Rep. Tobias Read is one
of the CRC’s most ardent
supporters.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

For instance, the bill puts a cap of $3.4 billion on the total project cost. But are we really to expect that if the project needed more funding that officials would simply walk away from it and leave it unfinished? And that cap of $3.4 billion does not include the $160 million already spent planning the project. Another provision would allow tolls to disappear after construction bonds are repaid. Cortright says that would, “seriously undercut the environmental claims and promises CRC has offered for years,” because CRC staff have said tolling would be a key way to manage traffic demand into the future.

And then there’s the section of the bill that refers to a mitigation fund intended to offset, “any air quality or other public health concerns that may impact the communities along the Interstate 5 corridor.” Instead of demanding that the project create such a fund, the bill includes the soft-ball language of, “shall conduct a study and develop recommendations.” That’s hardly a strong promise.

State Representative and Chair of the House Transportation Committee Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), who has shown up to many Bicycle Transportation Alliance events and joined us for a bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit a few years ago, told The Oregonian this morning: “I can say for myself that I am convinced it’s time to take a prudent step forward to authorize funding the Oregon portion, and send a signal to our partners in Washington that were ready to go.”

Activists hope to weaken that signal.

There’s still time to head down to Salem to tell legislators your thoughts on this project. Carpools are meeting up at 1:00 pm today at 729 E Burnside. More info here.

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Comments
  • Marid February 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I hope the CRC project breaks ground soon. With Clackamas County screaming about light rail it sounds like no progress is possible without someone crying about the ruin of our county and way of life. The hyperbole in today’s political theater is depressing.

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    • Chris I February 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      I guess it depends whether or not you view the CRC as “progress”. Is doubling the freeway capacity through north Portland, encouraging additional sprawl in Clark County and congestion in Portland progress? Is adding additional residents in our region that are auto-dependent progress? What do you define as progress?

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  • Champs February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    If there are too many negatives attached to the CRC project, don’t change the project, change the language! Frank Luntz would be proud of the way he’s gotten The O to write its coverage.

    If proponents of “THE Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Project” (emphasis added) are “pro-bridge” and the jobs it will create, then opponents of must be job-hating saboteurs of the only conceivable plan to fix the current situation.

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    • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      I suggest a new rhetorical tactic for the opponents of the disastrous CRC.

      “We want multiple bridges, one for each purpose. The CRC promoters want to stuff all types of traffic onto ONE bridge, for no good reason. WE are pro-bridge — they OPPOSE the many bridges we need.”

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  • Nathanael February 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Faced with the reality that nobody wants the mega-bridge, the response of those in power has been to attempt to ignore the people.

    It’s a self-defeating strategy in the long run, but I suppose they just want to shovel the cash to the construction companies and leave someone else holding the bad.

    Seattle discovered that tying roads and transit projects together was a sure way to get the people to vote “no” on them. It would be honest — and cheaper — to put up separate individual projects.

    The various alternatives-to-the-CRC which have been proposed are ALL better, and they all rely on multiple bridges rather than one megabridge. But that wouldn’t guarantee a slush fund for the construction companies.

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  • Nate February 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Jonathan, do you (or anyone else) know of any relatively unbiased (in both directions) clearing-houses of information on the current status of the project? Is any/all of the following true:
    - The MUP has already been dropped from the current iteration
    - They have resubmitted a 116′ height to get past Corps of – Engineers/Coast Guard opposition (previous was 92′ or so?)
    - Feds won’t fund anything without Light Rail
    - Feds won’t fund without money from both OR and WA
    - There is no support from Washington state

    Also, which OR Senators and Reps support the BuRP?

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  • Granpa February 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/Default.aspx
    Columbia River Crossing home page. This site represents the agencies. The State of Washington and the State of Oregon and the CRC development team. They are pro-project and the information provided is true although the information is likely spun in its favor.

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    • Nate February 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Thanks Granpa! (They lost me at “Problems”).

      I guess we are left finding our own reality based on that page and the other side – like BlueOregon.com, the Columbian, etc. – together. The truth may be somewhere in between…

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    • Evan Manvel February 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      re: “the information provided is true”

      The title of the page is “long-term, comprehensive solution”… that means they’re lying from the start. Their own Independent Review Panel found it’s far from a comprehensive solution.

      The CRC deliberately misleads. It’s been documented again and again and again and again. (Safety, seismic, cost, design, process, jobs, words and framing, etc.) While some parts may be true, they rely on the reader not knowing anything about context (for example, ignoring the Bridge Condition Report, the Independent Review Panel, the history of cost over-runs, how ODOT’s Safety Division works, etc.).

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  • Hart Noecker February 11, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Liveblogging the CRC boondoggle hearing via mismanagingperception.com

    http://www.mismanagingperception.com/salem-crc-hearing-liveblog/

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  • Jeff Bernards February 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Dear Oregon Representative:

    I’m writing in regards to the CRC/Bridge Replacement Project. My biggest concerns are the negative affects this will have on our current Budgets & the Climate Crisis we are facing.

    The projections and costs associated with this project have been explored by many concerned organizations and businesses that will be affected by this project.

    Assumptions vs Truths:
    1. Assumption: It will relieve traffic over the current bridge.
    Truth: Studies have indicated it will save overall about 1 minute.
    2. Assumption: It will reduce congestion and lower CO2 emissions.
    Truth: Concrete is responsible for 5% of worldwide CO2 emissions.
    When you add the steel & construction carbon footprint the end result
    will be a huge carbon footprint that will take decades to balance out.
    It will also encourage the use of SOV if driving is made easier & increase
    C02.
    3. Assumption: The cost is $3.5 billion dollars.
    Truth: Historically mega projects are 28% above the original estimated cost.
    With interest the true cost is $10 billion. That’s money that will be
    leaving our area and not being spent maintaining our current
    infrastructure deficits.
    4. Assumption: The I-5 Bridge is a bottleneck to commerce from Mexico to
    Canada.
    Truth: The current bridge is 6 lanes, the bottleneck is the I-84/Rosequarter
    area which is only 4 lanes. It makes no sense to add lanes to the bridge
    if the Rosequarter area is going to be left alone. It’s been estimated to
    cost another $1/2 a billion to fix that area, which we have no money for.
    5. Assumption: The Feds are going to contribute $1.3 billion for the project.
    Truth: Currently the Highway Trust Fund has no money for any projects.
    6. Assumption: Tolling will raise $1.3 billion dollars.
    Truth: Traffic counts are down, projections are short of debt service that is
    needed. Who’s going to make up the difference?
    7. Assumption: Tolling will reduce traffic.
    Truth: If tolling reduces traffic, why isn’t there a toll now to raise the money
    to retrofit the current bridges & reduce traffic at the same time? No
    politician wants to be the one to raise fees on motorist.
    8. Assumptions: The current bridges aren’t earthquake proof.
    Truth: The current bridges have survived a 50 & 100 year window of
    earthquakes, I don’t have sleepless nights about earthquakes, but I do
    have sleepless nights about Climate Change and huge debt service to pay
    for the bridge.
    9. Assumption: Trucking and shipping will increase over the next decades.
    Truth: The sustainable economy of the future will be more regional and less
    international. As oil prices rise it won’t be how far we can ship, it will be
    how close can we be to our markets.

    If this bridge gets built it will only showcase our lack of understanding of our future economy. The negative effects it will have on our environment are real. If this is to help trucking it’s time to tax diesel now, yes it will raise the cost of goods, but that’s the point that’s what the bridge is going to do, to all of us. There is no free money hence no free bridge benefits, for that matter.
    As a Portland resident I’m saddled with the Sellwood bridge fees, sewer lines that need replacing, the highest water bills in the country. My current debt load is maxed out. Unless your willing to raise the tolls to a realistic cost, like the Golden Gate Bridge of $6, I will never support a new bridge and highway expansion project.

    Please consider your vote on the CRC and the impact it has on us and the environment.

    Sincerely
    Jeff Bernards
    2138 SE 76th
    Portland, OR. 97215

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Alan 1.0 February 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      8. Assumptions: The current bridges aren’t earthquake proof.
      Truth: The current bridges have survived a 50 & 100 year window of
      earthquakes, I don’t have sleepless nights about earthquakes…

      Devastation from an inevitable Big One will be widespread, severe and encompass many forms of suffering, but Columbia bridge collapses will be among the most significant ones sure to happen. Beyond immediate death and trauma during the collapse, loss of those major transpo corridors will bind up rescue, relief and rebuilding efforts for at least a year. Ironically, Portland may feel worse effects from that than Vancouver, as Vancouver will still have rail and highway connections to Seattle.

      IMO, the CRC freeway project isn’t the way to go, but neither is ignoring outdated and substandard critical infrastructure.

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      • Chris I February 13, 2013 at 6:27 am

        The inevitable “big one” is precisely why we should not move forward with the CRC. The CRC is going to suck up $500 million state highway dollars, plus the federal match, that could be used to seismically upgrade and rebuild dozens and dozens of bridges around the state, not just two of them. If the CRC is built, and the big one hits, it is likely that only 3 spans in the area will survive: the CRC, the new light rail bridge, and the Sauvie’s Island bridge. Wouldn’t you rather have all of the bridges in Portland survive? Or at least half of them? We are squandering money that should be spent on safety and maintenance on a massive freeway capacity expansion project, and light rail that Clark County does not want.

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        • Alan 1.0 February 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

          Saying that Clark County does not want light rail ignores about 47% of Clark County voters who said “yes” to CTRAN’s funding proposal. Nixing light rail also means that many car commuters won’t be diverted from driving into Portland. Chris, as I said, I agree that CRC is not the way to go, and yes, the funds could and should be much better spent, but the light rail piece is important for diversifying transportation (reduce reliance and needs of SOV, resilience to fuel prices, non-driving people…) and for long-term, stable regional planning while maximum opportunity for good routing is available.

          (Yes, I know that yesterday Madore and Mielke approved a Clark County resolution opposing CRC, with Stuart absent.)

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  • Pete February 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Deja vu? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig

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    • rain bike February 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Having lived in Boston during the Big Dig and visited after it’s completion, I gotta say, I think that part of town is nicer today with the freeway burried than it was before.

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      • Paul in the 'couve February 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        Having been to Boston before and after (as a visitor for work) I can see your point. However, the question we can still ask is “What ELSE could we have done with that same area with the same $$$?” In the long run, I am convinced that spending on transit, walkable communities, and sustainability will be a better value and construct a more humane environment more conducive to a pleasant city and social network that any kind of road project. For example the money Washington State is spending building a tunnel for the hwy 99 /Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement could have bought a $700 bicycle for every single resident of the state.

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  • Joe Rowe February 12, 2013 at 12:30 am

    I just got back about 11pm. Myself and Jim Howell were the last 2 people to speak. All 6 Senators and 10 House members on the Transportation committee told me they honestly believe this will cost just 3.6 billion, and it will reduce pollution. Then all 16 refused to a televised debate on the costs and pollution.

    Jim Howell presented the Common Sense alternative and the same 16 members found it hard to believe that activists could be accurate and design it on their own. Jim said he would openly debate anyone supporting the CRC design.

    Then, it happened again, more silence.

    Folks, when a project is sold on lies, only one set of data and the power abusers don’t allow a public debate it is time to take direct non violent action.

    There’s still time to sign a petition and call.

    http://signon.org/sign/stop-the-5-billion-crc

    talking points and news clips
    http://goo.gl/F2WJn

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