Crossing panel votes to include Metro amendment…sort of

Posted by on February 27th, 2007 at 8:25 pm

[Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder presents his resolution calling for more alternatives to be considered in the Columbia River Crossing process.]

The Columbia River Crossing Task Force has just voted 26-7 in favor of a resolution created by Rex Burkholder, and passed by Metro Council, asking that they include another alternative besides their $6 billion dollar mega-bridge in the next phase of their process.

Burkholder’s resolution was passed as an amendment to the staff recommendation to build a replacement bridge, which passed unanimously. The replacement bridge proposal will now move forward, but a subcommittee, to be chaired by Burkholder, will be formed and will report back to the task force in one month. The subcommittee will explore the supplemental bridge option and come up with a more specific proposal.

[Read an expert analysis on what happened at]

On the phone after the vote (I had to leave early) Burkholder said,

“The main thing we wanted was unity moving forward.”

[Commissioner Adams and Vancouver
Mayor Royce Pollard share a
pre-vote conversation.]

The meeting was packed with movers and shakers from around the region and I noticed many whispered conversations and hallway handshakes. Notable among the crowd were ODOT Director Matt Garrett, Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, and Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams.

The tone of the four hour meeting was set by a litany of testimony from concerned citizens opposing the CRC process and their intentions to build an expensive mega-bridge without full consideration of other alternatives.

[Many citizens expressed
concerns about the mega-bridge.]

The CRC process has already spent nearly 10 years and $60-80 million dollars to reach this point and it was clear after hearing the public testimony that if they moved forward with their recommendation for a mega-bridge there would be significant controversy and political risk.

Because of this potential controversy, several experts I spoke with tonight said that if the Task Force did not pass Metro’s resolution the result would be that nothing gets built at all.

Noted transportation activist Chris Smith testified that the CRC was being seduced into “building an icon,” and he encouraged the 39 member task force to not focus on this one five mile corridor but to consider spreading the money around like Portland did back in the 1970s when the Mt. Hood Freeway was defeated.

Zoobomber Reverend Phil Sano worked the crowd during his three-minute testimony. He pointed out that the mega-bridge would only encourage motor vehicle use and that “we should fund a project that kills less people,” than the 45,000 people killed every year in motor vehicle crashes.

[Reverend Phil cracked up the crowd with a Zoobomb reference and interactive testimony.]

He then turned to the assembled crowd and said, “Who in this room supports the existing options?” There was silence. And then he asked, “Who hear supports a new option being added?” and there was clapping and whistling.

Shift volunteer and former Boston resident Carl Larson warned that the CRC was headed down the same path as that city’s disastrous “Big Dig” project.

Clark County commissioner Steve Stuart, an outspoken critic of the Task Force’s recommendation, claimed that the proposed mega-bridge would be nearly 228 feet wide. He asked for details on the number of lanes and added that a bridge with 10 motor vehicle lanes, 2 lanes for transit, four shoulders and adequate bike and pedestrians lanes would be “over 2/3 the size of a football field.”

[The large crowd spilled
over into another room.]

As I left the meeting, the Task Force was debating the merits of Burkholder’s proposal. Concerns centered around a feeling that vetting this new alternative would take too much time and money from the process. There was a sense from many Task Force members that they could not sacrifice their schedule for any reason.

Jonathan Schleuter of the Westside Economic Alliance was skeptical of Burkholder’s proposal and wanted to move forward without hesitation. He claimed that the materials needed to build a new bridge skyrocket with each passing month. By his estimates he said that,

“It’s costing us $25 million a month just to sit here and have this conversation.”

That contention was countered by Jill Fugilister of Coalition for a Livable Future, Multnomah County Commissioner Serena Cruz Walsh, and others. They said we can either pay a little more now and consider another alternative or pay a lot more later in terms of political and public fall-out for moving forward with only one option on the table that does not allow for “broader voices” to be heard.

On that note, veteran transportation activist Walter Valenta of the Bridgeton Neighborhood Association threw his weight behind Burkholder,

“Let’s give it a month to see if it shakes out. If we can unify around support of an alternative we have more political capital moving forward.”

[Bill Barnes testified against the
CRC’s staff recommendation.]

North Portland resident Bill Barnes seemed to sum it all up when I approached him as he left the ODOT building,

“When you got this many normal, ordinary people coming to places like this and letting their concerns be known, you know there’s a problem.”

In the end, there are still many decision yet to be made, but this is an important victory for citizens and transportation advocates who worried that the CRC was about to embark on a controversial project that would not adequately solve the congestion problems on the I-5 corridor between Vancouver and Portland.

Thanks are due to all the citizens who made their voices heard tonight and especially to Metro for finding a solution that nearly everyone could agree upon.

UPDATE: More coverage on last night’s meeting:

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Attornatus_Oregonensis February 27, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    This is great. Thanks for covering this, Jonathan.

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    N.I.K. February 27, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    26-4?!? Holy crap, that’s remarkable!

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    alan bluehole February 28, 2007 at 6:06 am

    An aside: I am Burkholder’s neighbor and whenever I see him on a bike, he’s not wearing a helmet. Come on, Rex, set an example!

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    trike February 28, 2007 at 7:45 am

    someone better go look at ODOTS mega plan. this is gonna be like the highway around coquille. it took 20 years but finally they built the highway around the town; persistance pays off and now the town is dieing.

    ODOT will not let it go and they will slip it into any crack they can if its on the big ol master plan map.

    Also its funny to me that we continue to make freeways; who is the biggest backer of this project? is it odot, or tourism or trucking? its certenly not the public as shown.

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    Jim Mayer February 28, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Jonathan — I don’t know if my report was any more coherent, but you got the more colorful characters in your story…

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    Jonathan Maus February 28, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Thanks Jim. I actually just edited my post to include a few other articles.

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    Craig February 28, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Don’t forget WDOT. Its the WA side that is really pushing this project. In essence its a big real estate development push, lots of land to be developed in outer Clark County.

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    mykle February 28, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Thing is, the CRC guys spend 10 years and 60 million dollars to get to this point. Whatever Rex can do in one month is going to seem fairly vague and provisional by comparison. I think the CRC pushers are just trying to dodge & weave through the process.

    And they’re doing well: in a public hearing full of opposition, they just passed their mega-bridge recommendation, with just one caveat that Rex now has the job of making real.

    What can he do in a month? He can propose some ideas, but studying their feasability will take longer than that. The best he can do is come back in a month with some options for further study. Then the anti-study, pro-urgent folks will try to brush him aside and charge ahead with the CRC staff recommendation — which, you’ll recall, Metro just passed …

    This ain’t over yet.

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    Helen Wheels February 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    It’s too bad opposition wasn’t involved for the past 10 years – sheesh!

    Oregon is 2nd to Washington State for breast cancer rates (I don’t know about other cancers) and it all falls along the I-5 corridor. (OHSU) Hello!

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    nuovorecord February 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Actually, the I-5 Trade and Transportation Task Force (which was the group that formed the CRC project), recommended a much broader solution to the problem. There was supposed to be a robust demand management component in the corridor, as well as improved bike/ped connections and a hard look at an arterial auto connection vs. a freeway one.

    This is basically what Rex is proposing and hopefully, he can craft a convincing alternative based on the original intent of the project, which seemingly has been lost in a blinding desire by the DOT’s and FHWA to build a new freeway bridge.

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    Jonathan Maus February 28, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Mykle (#8)

    you’re exactly right.

    But my hunch tells me that if they brush Rex’s proposal aside, they will not have the political capital and public trust to move forward.

    Bottom line is if they go for a mega-bridge, there will be such huge controversy, demonstrations, etc… that they will abandon the project.

    The result will be that nothing gets built at all and they will have wasted $60-80 million dollars in the “process”.

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    trike February 28, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I really have to ask this question because i cannot see where the money went.

    How the hell do you spend 60 to 80 million dollers on a ten year study?

    WTF is it written in gold leaf or something?

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    revphil February 28, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    So there are 3 possible outcomes at the moment:

    1) mega brige – mega sux
    2) rex’s plan – please break it down for me
    3) no bridge – we “waste” 100 million deciding not to move the bottleneck into the city.

    much of the DOT seems is mysterious to me. How did we get so far without any public input?

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    John February 28, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    “Don’t forget WDOT. Its the WA side that is really pushing this project. In essence its a big real estate development push, lots of land to be developed in outer Clark County.”

    Don’t forget, we’ve got Washington state’s largest auto dealer, too. Once things start moving forwards, there’s going to be a whole lot more shouting about eliminating light rail, bus transit, pedestrian and bike paths as a way to “cut costs” on the north side of the river. Be ready to fight on the north side to maintain alternatives to driving into Portland! We’re already seeing:
    Not that this is too significant, almost 70% of the posts are by the board’s owner… But it’s what we’re going to be hearing a lot more of in Vancouver, soon.

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    Eric H February 28, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    What alternatives in a month are they going to come up with that hasn’t already been thought of? It’s not like this is a new freeway, just an improvement.

    Demonstrations? Come on are there better (more important) things we would waste our time on?

    How was the Big Dig a disaster? I’ll admit I’ve never been though it, yea it cost a little more then they though but it added a lot of green space up top. Aren’t you guys/gals always squawk about wanting more of this. I’m sure there was plenty of opposition in the beginning…

    Can we stop sitting on hands and just get this on with…

    Why is it that the vocal few (who have little involvement after it’s complete) screw it up for the rest of us?

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    DR February 28, 2007 at 6:50 pm


    What exactly do you mean? Are you saying those of us whose tax money will be spent have little involvement? What about those of us who actually live near the freeway south of bridge? I’m not thrilled about the idea of more benzene, more diesel particulate, more noise pollution, more traffic on the off-ramps and surrounding streets. I live less than 500 yards from the 405 and cross it by foot or bike nearly every day. More traffic coming from Vancouver means more traffic spewing shit directly into my lungs. That pisses me off. And you say I don’t have any involvement in this?

    You damn well better believe I’ll be out there protesting this thing if they decide to go forward with the mega-bridge. I think a lot of us will start getting very, very loud.

    “Just an improvement?” My ass.

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    Slick February 28, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Eric what do you think will happen when the bridge is built and the bottleneck moves to the Rose Quarter. I’ll tell you… you’ll be talking your next “improvement” which will be widening the rest of I5 through Portland. The staff report very clearly concedes that the bottleneck does not go away with this project. The bottleneck moves.

    We don’t want our city centered on big highways! We want our city centered on a livable place for people.

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    revphil March 1, 2007 at 3:46 am


    because if so, I would love to hear more of your thoughts.

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    thedude March 1, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Eric doesn’t care, the “process” of building the bridge is how he makes his living. Another bottle neck assures more work. Its pure selfishness buried in “lets get things done” quotes. This is exactly how the CRC PR machine is going to fight off the majority of people approaching this problem using basic reason. Its very simple for these guys: they know it won’t work, it never has worked, but they’re going to build it anyway. Because thats what they do, build things.

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