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CRC set for likely House vote this Monday

Posted by on February 22nd, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Artist’s rendering of the project

HB 2800, the bill that will give a green light (at least on the Oregon side) to the Columbia River Crossing I-5 freeway expansion project, will likely be voted on by the Oregon House when they convene at 11:00 am on Monday (2/25).

After years of what has felt like very slow progress, the project has flown through the legislative process this session. It’s clear that Governor Kitzhaber — who was opposed to massive highway expansion projects during his former stint as Governor, but for some reason this time around he’s become a champion of the largest freeway expansion in Oregon history — has seized the opportunity of having a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate.

While lawmakers talk about “jobs!” and “economic development!” and repeat project talking points that have been expertly massaged into them with a $170 million PR and lobbying machine, a scathing article by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nigel Jaquiss in the Willamette Week details how Kitzhaber and his legislative soldiers have put HB 2800 on the fast track:

“The [Joint I-5 Bridge Replacement] committee [that held two hearings and voted to support the bill] was carefully stacked. Of 16 members, most favored the bridge. Only two had been on record as harboring doubts. And four were freshman lawmakers put in the position of and saying aye, lest they cross the governor, Democratic leaders and major business and labor interests on their first big vote.

And legislative leaders sent the bill out without the requisite stop at the Ways and Means Committee, where the expert staff might sniff out the financial challenges underlying it.”

And amazingly, even though this project is very close to moving significantly forward (at least politically), it’s difficult to find images showing the lane expansions and new interchanges. Project backers have tried their hardest to convince the public and lawmakers that this is a “bridge project.” But it’s not. The vast majority of expense comes from widening I-5 and adding massive interchanges. I’ll share more about this in a separate story; but for now, check out the GIF below that I put together based on renderings created by a consultant hired by the CRC a few years ago:

r3Ok_d on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Animation shows view southeast from Jantzen Beach area. Images show existing and future build-out conditions. They were sourced from the website of a consultant hired by ODOT/CRC.

Conventional wisdom is that the bill is very likely to pass Monday. After that it would need to passed by the Senate before being signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber. If it does become law, there are several “triggers” in the bill (such as a Coast Guard permit to satisfy the bridge height issue, a funding commitment from Washington, light rail funding from the feds, and so on) that would have to be reached before the State Treasurer could officially green-light the bonds to finance the $450 million Oregon share of the project.

The CRC is deeply flawed and I remain concerned that the massive political lobbying effort pulling strings behind the scenes to finally make it happen is getting way too close to carrying out their plan.

If you still haven’t contacted your state representative about this project, the time is now. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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Comments
  • Joe Cortright February 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Great story Jonathan!

    For years, the CRC has done everything it can to conceal the massive visual impact of the new bridge and interchanges. They have never produced images showing how the project would change the views from street level in downtown Vancouver or on the ground in Hayden Island. And now the bridge will have a minimum clearance of 116 feet, so that the visual impacts will be even greater than disclosed in the original EIS. Plus the higher bridge will increase the grade for all traffic-including cyclists. This is yet another instance of CRC manipulating information to conceal facts and sell the giant freeway project.

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  • Hart Noecker February 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    The bigger they come, that harder they fall. Help kill this thing in the Oregon senate, find your district and tell your rep to vote NO to the CRC: http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

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  • Dan Kaufman February 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    The Oregonian Editorial board says bikes are causing the potholes while they advocate every other week to pour millions of tons of concrete across just a few miles of Freeway in North Portland and into Vancouver.

    Thank you Jonathan for not giving up on the real story of the CRC after all these years!

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  • Ron Buel February 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Jonathan:
    Very good point, but your graphic is no longer accurate. They have changed the structures to a massive earth berm which will contain the 17 lanes on Hayden Island. It will be 600 feet wide, 2000 feet long across the Island and, before the bridge was planned to be 21 feet higher at river clearnance, the berm would be 50 feet high. Now it may go up to 60 or 65 feet when the bridge takes off at the river. This is 6,000,000 cubic feet of dirt. The staging area for the construction is planned to be on the West side of the shopping center and freeway, which is near a trailer park there, making a living hell for the residents. Yet, residents of Hayden Island are still being hornswoggled into supporting this project, which will, indeed, give them a way to go south off the island without getting on a freeway. But the fancy city plan that was done in selling the locally preferred alternative to islanders at the Portland City Council, and at the Planning Commission, is basically kaput. The road under the structures “uniting both sides of the island,” will have to tunnel under the berm if it is going to be built at all.

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  • Evan Manvel February 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    The image the CRC wants no one to see. Well done.

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    • Marid February 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      The images look fine. I don’t feel bad for the old parking lots.

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  • David Sweet February 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Your banker wouldn’t loan you a dime unless you could produce the pay stubs to show how you would pay it back. Yet, our legislature is on course to borrow $450 million with no plan for paying the $30 million a year in debt service. This is a mother of all subprime mortgages. Money that would otherwise be used to create jobs for Oregonians, building local transportation infrastructure, will instead fill the bank accounts of out-of-state investors.

    Call your State Senator. Don’t let them do this to our children and grandchildren.

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    • Joe Rowe February 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      Yes, call your state Senator. This can be killed in the Senate.

      http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

      Municipal bonds are always made in huge offers by banks. This is why 40% of Washington state gas taxes go to banks, and not roads. If someone like Orange County or Mult County defaults, the nearby governments cover the funds. To let one set of bonds fail would ruin the money game for all the friends of lawmakers.

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    • wsbob February 23, 2013 at 12:36 am

      I’ll be surprised if that argument works, because job creation is a big force driving this project. Hopes for an improvement of the economy state and countrywide are also driving it. The federal government wants this bridge built. Potential or imminent destruction of area livability is about the only thing I think could be a strong enough argument to kill the project.

      Although, if the project does get the green light, maybe some change in expectations will intervene to stop it middle of construction, leaving a big useless hulk, like the exit to nowhere on the Markham Bridge, or that big money-pit hole in the ground next to Nordstroms in Downtown Portland (unless construction on the tower planned for that block has finally resumed after what? 2-3 years sitting like an ugly sore just a block from the park dubbed Portland’s ‘living room’.)…lasting monuments to dubious ideas derailed.

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  • takeaspin22 February 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    If construction of the CRC mega-freeway becomes inevitable, cycling advocates need to be prepared to defend the bike/ped path – the one good thing the CRC has going for it. I suspect that a lot of the current general public opposition will morph into opposition to the light rail and bike components of the project.

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  • evan February 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    man, I wish we had some kind of Bicycle Transportation Association or something to help us fight projects like this.

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    • Hart Noecker February 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Hey, c’mon now. BTA issued a press release in 2011 with some moderately worded concerns about the current design models.

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      • Joe Rowe February 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm

        While the BTA did hold a candidate “forum” for some small city offices, they neglected to share those results in an easy to read & access email to all members.

        The BTA could have easily killed the CRC by holding a candidates forum for Metro President and then 4 days later, sending all the statments out via simple emal:

        “I’m Tom Hughes, I support the CRC”

        “I’m Bob Stacey, The CRC is sold on a pack of lies”

        That would have changed 300 votes, and changed Stacey to be the metro President, and Metro would never passed the LUFO CRC resolution authored by Rex Burkholder, friends with BTA administrators. This is why everyone reading this should stop giving money to the BTA, and volunteer with the Bike Walk Vote PAC.

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        • Hart Noecker February 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

          Totally agree. BWV, CLF, NeCN all took the lead on this. Where was Sierra Club? Where was Environment Oregon? Where was the BTA? These bureaucratic nonprofits basically endorsed the CRC with their lack of action.

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  • o/o February 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    it would be no longer Portlandy when and if it gets built. I love the old bridges. __mmmMm__

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    • Joe Rowe February 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      About 30 years ago the unions and fear mongers said the Hawthorne bridge was an old safety risk, and the sky will fall. Lucky for us the old bridge is still safe, and the lies became clear.

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  • Rol February 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Even these renderings are too charitable, showing a wonderful sunny day (yeah right), with sparsely-spaced cars just-a-whizzing along unimpeded by other traffic like something out of a car commercial. Instead of the inevitable induced-demand gridlock that’s sure to follow if it gets built.

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    • Hart Noecker February 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Can’t kill Robert Moses enough.

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      • kittens February 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

        Do SOMETHING. It takes a about15 min, and you can draft a nice little form letter and email it to all your peeps. It may not make a huge difference, but what else is the alternative? This is a disaster for generations to come.

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  • Bill Stites February 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Please continue with the excellent coverage – it’s not too much.
    Stopping the CRC is too important as it has such far reaching consequences. We need to help focus our myopic legislators.

    Thanks Jonathan.

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  • Alain February 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    That GIF is visually compelling, and really should be circulated widely. As others have pointed out, there has been an effort to downplay the visual nature of this mega-project and more visuals like this should be in circulation.

    It’s as if a piece of Los Angeles or Houston highway was airlifted and dropped on this crossing of the Columbia. I honestly don’t see how a single resident on Hayden Island would go for this project. Unless they see the residential set backs as being far enough away to ignore it.

    I’m glad someone shined light back on Metro’s failure to block this project. That to me was a real head scratcher. I would think Metro would be front and center at any discussion about why projects like the CRC are bad for the region. And why a better investment for the future of the region (freight, commuters and recreation) would be upgrading the north-south rail corridor, particularly at the Columbia River… adding a line to increase capacity, etc.

    Metro should be championing the work of BWV, CLF, NeCN and AORTA. I’ve drafted letters to send around to the reps, but I recommend people send letters to Hughes and others at Metro, as I see what they’ve done as a failure to provide real vision for the region. Not to mention mis-representing the nature and impact of the CRC. Metro is supposed to represent what is “different” and forward thinking about Portland, yet they’ve failed to embody this role.

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  • Vance Longwell February 25, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I’ve got two-dozen friends, at least, employed in the transportation sector. I’ve got more friends dependent upon imports at the ‘Port. I have friends once employed in a manufacturing sector here, one of the best in the world. Me, and all of these people are simply ecstatic to see PROGRESS occur, in spite of the progressives and their agenda. You know the Feds gave us money for this right? And YOU ALL spent it on bike-lanes and bio-swales. Woops.

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    • Dan Kaufman February 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Apparently, you have no friends in the yards just east of the bridge who will no longer be able transport their over-sized cargo under the new crossing. Oh well, though, it’ll be just the tax payers who will spend more in total to to compensate these companies then has ever been spent on bicycle paths in our city. And who knows maybe those businesses will find a better yard in another country or just cash out.

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  • John February 26, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Know what I wish? That all of you would stop complaining. Washingtonians that commute daily to Portland pump MILLIONS of dollars of tax revenue into the state of Oregon per year, whilst we see no use of our tax dollars. Any Oregonian can come into Washington and be tax exempt, yet it never works the other way around. With the BILLIONS in revenue that Vancouver residents have willfully given to the Oregon department of revenue over the last 10 years, Oregon should be glad to foot this bill by themselves with Washingtonians calling all the shots. Also for the love of God NO LIGHT RAIL!! We would prefer not to repeat your mistakes.

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    • Alan 1.0 February 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      …for some values of “we”

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    • Paul in the 'couve February 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      How about $10 each way tolls so the people who use the bridge pay for their convenience then?

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  • Joe February 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

    asphalt snake!

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    • John February 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Please sir, explain to me how it is healthy for my family to have me arrive home at 8:00 every night; and then go straight to bed because I have to wake up everyday at 4:00am, so I can bike to work from Vancouver. By my estimation it would take me two and a half hours to bike to work. That’s 5 hours a day. I work 10 hours a day. With a new bridge and less traffic I can be home to my family in about 25 minutes. Keep in mind I HAVE to live in Vancouver, otherwise my wife would have to make the journey in the opposite direction. Please solve that conundrum for me. Also please explain why Oregonians shouldn’t be on the hook for this bridge, seeing as how Vancouver residents who work in Oregon have been paying for your states welfare programs and sees no benefit to their taxes.

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      • Paul in the 'couve February 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

        Why should I have to subsidize your choice of where to live and work and choice in mode of transportation with my tax dollars (weather federal or state or local)? Building more lanes and more freeways just encourages more people to chose to live 30 miles from where they work. Further, why shoudn’t I have a choice in modes of transportation? Currently the only realistic options for commuting anywhere but downtown PDX from Vancouver are biking or driving. Unfortunately the MAX link on the bridge won’t solve that because it is too slow.

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        • Alan 1.0 February 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

          Besides which, the CRC is estimated to save commuters like John about 2 minutes each way, 4 minutes round trip. woohoo. not.

          MAX is sort of problematic, but that’s because the yellow line spends so much time on surface streets through NoPo where it can’t go very fast. If the Vancouver route instead went along Swan Island and through the St John’s trench alongside heavy-rail ROW, it could go faster and compete better for time.

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  • Alain February 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    John,

    Why should shortening your travel time (which the bridge may or may not do) be at the expensive of those who live near the I-5 corridor in North Portland? Your convenience should not be at the expense of my neighborhood and the surround neighborhoods. Freeways are not free, and they are not magic portals that get us where we need to go without impacting the area they cut through.

    I do believe that roads are part of the landscape, but the size and scale of roads is very important. It’s sounds like you drive because there are not other viable options, but why live where your transportation options are limited for you or your wife? These are choices we make, but these choices clearly have impacts and costs. And I don’t want to pay for your decision to live so far from work.

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    • John February 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Well, there are thing I don’t want to pay for either, but the utilitarian ethic applies to this situation, and others that we aren’t discussing here. I love riding my bike. It’s one of the great joys of my life, and if I could live closer to work then I would. Vancouver residents’ Oregon tax dollars are never used for Vancouver residents, but in this case they should be. We don’t live in Japan, and urban sprawl is such that in many cases people have to live where they do out of necessity. My reasons are my own for living where I do, but saffice it to say I have to live here. The real problem is that population will grow, and eventually we will have to build a bridge anyways. Bikes can’t be the end all like we all wish try could be; just look at Amsterdam, or at the worst Taipei. I would love congestion pricing as well, I’m all for it, but that raises even more issues about people’s freedom. Also, 4 minutes a day is huge if you consider that 4 minutes per day over 40 years is almost a month of lost time. That’s lost time with family, and we only get one life. Like it or not, we live in a society that seeks the maximum good for the maximum number of people -utilitarianism-, and until we have flying cars bridges such as these are necissary.

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      • Paul in the 'couve February 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

        John, It doesn’t have to be that way. Cars and sprawl have PROVEN to be a horrible way to manage growth. It doesn’t work. Transit works – but it does require density. I can understand how you feel you have little choice in your situation and in short run, I also know how difficult it is to make family decisions about living and working. I would prefer to drive a lot less than I do. I’d also prefer not to fill up the tank on my Suburban which took 15 minutes and $145 today. To keep building the way we have since the late 50s is to delay the inevitable shift that will come. Chicago, Detroit and even NYC are there already. Also coming close Atlanta and LA. Seattle is getting there too. It is impossible to keep going building more roads. Cities must learn to manage density and develop transit and cycling.

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  • Joe February 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    more bike access is better.

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