In the statement, the BTA says that “after extensive internal discussions and conversations with supporters and opponents” of the project, they feel that a new bridge is needed but that their support, “has essential conditions.”
Those conditions are:
Right Size the Bridge
The current conversation over building a new bridge starts at 10 or 12 auto lanes, however, with the existing bridge currently at six lanes, the BTA believes that an eight lane bridge may be adequate. The BTA will only support a project that provides rigorous analysis of an eight-lane option.
Begin Tolling Today
Any project will require vast financial resources and the majority of these should be collected through user fees. The BTA strongly believes that it makes sense to begin accumulating these funds now. However, we understand that there are significant federal and state hurdles to overcome in order to begin tolling. The project team must start the process so tolling can start immediately upon selection of a project design.
Don’t Jeopardize Other Transportation Projects
The region has billions of dollars in transportation needs as documented in the Regional Transportation Plan. The region has spent an enormous amount of time and gathered significant public input to determine these priorities. The Columbia River Crossing must hold these projects harmless and must not use locally allocated transportation funds.
Build World-class Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities
After a year of work, the BTA is advancing a recommendation for a 24-26 foot mixed bicycle and pedestrian facility on the west side of the bridge and 12-14 foot, primarily pedestrian facility on the east side of the bridge. We particularly are calling for high-quality ramps and access onto the west-side path.
The BTA’s statement also says that in the coming days they, “will call for community-based action to ensure that the CRC project moves forward in a way that protects our region and creates an essential connection for bicyclists.”
The BTA has struggled with their role in this $4.2 billion project and this statement is likely an attempt to clarify their uneasiness with the direction the project is going. Most observers of the process say that a 12-lane replacement bridge option has the most momentum and that has several groups — including the BTA — concerned.
But the CRC project staff counter those concerns by saying that six lanes in the 12-lane alternative are “auxiliary lanes” and more importantly, that the design of the bridge is only in its early stages. CRC staff have said repeatedly that they will work with the BTA to address their concerns as the process moves forward — but the question is when will they be addressed, and to what extent?
This statement from the BTA comes as a similar stance has been taken by Metro. Last week they voted 5-2 in support of a replacement bridge with light rail, but also passed a resolution that included several contingencies going forward — the most important of which was the formation of an independent oversight committee (without the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation) that would preside over many key design decisions from here on out.
The CRC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released on May 1st and the comment period ends on July 1st.
With several hearings and important votes in the days and weeks ahead, the CRC project is heating up. Stay tuned for more coverage.