BTA chief clarifies CRC advocacy strategy

“In my view, the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) debate is less about building a bridge and more about debating a right-sized project that is multi-modal, that won’t bankrupt our transportation funds, and won’t promote sprawl by increasing auto use. In addition, for cyclists, it’s about creating a world-class bicycle and pedestrian facility.”

That’s the opening paragraph of a blog post just published by Bicycle Transportation Alliance executive director Scott Bricker.

Scott Bricker
(Photos © J. Maus)

In the post, titled In My View – CRC Advocacy Strategy, Bricker attempts to clarify his organization’s stance on the Columbia River Crossing project. The BTA has come under criticism by some for not doing more to oppose the current direction of the project.

The project has admittedly been a difficult one for the BTA. In a story about their attempt to find the right path in the project, Bricker acknowledged that the BTA was “having a hard time stating our positions.”

When they published their official position on the project last week, several commenters on this site still expressed some dissatisfaction with their stance — which is to support the CRC process and remain a working partner, while working to achieve their desired outcomes. reader Hank Sheppard commented that it, “Looks like the BTA is drinking the Kool Aid.” Another commenter, Peter Welte, wrote that, “any project that adds auto-lanes is just giving in to sprawl and not something the BTA should support.” Reader Wes Robinson put his feelings bluntly and wrote, “I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed in the BTA.”

Perhaps hoping to stem some of those criticisms, Bricker explained on their blog today that their stance on the project allows them to be influential in the process and that their position is, “based on principles”.

“The BTA has taken a course that allows us to be influential in shaping the project.”
— Scott Bricker

Then Bricker gets more specific and clearly states that the BTA opposes “the construction of a mega-bridge,” and instead favors a “smaller, multi-modal bridge” (an option with no real political support).

Bricker likens the BTA’s approach to the CRC issue as being similar to how they dealt with another controversy — the fallout with the Portland Police Bureau following the death of Brett Jarolimek. Bricker says they received “intense pressure” to come out against the PPB’s handling of the fatality but instead they took six weeks to develop a strategy.

That “methodical” approach, says Bricker, resulted in positive changes at the PPB and what he refers to as “the most open and productive relationship with the police” in his 10 year BTA career.

On the CRC, Bricker writes that he believes, “our next steps are to target the Portland City Council and demand local control, ensure that any project moving forward adopts a very strict set of project guidelines, and ensure that local funds won’t be depleted.”

Bricker on a drive to Salem in January, 2007.

While he doesn’t come out and say it, Bricker seems to be open to joining a coalition of advocacy groups that would more strongly oppose the CRC project. He writes that, “Changing the paradigm even further would take a very strong coalition” and that, “So far… I have not heard this vision clearly articulated in a way that can successfully penetrate the project.”

The CRC project is clearly the largest issue Bricker has led the BTA through since he took over leadership of the organization back in October of 2007. Prior to this role, he was the BTA’s full-time lobbyist down in Salem, a position he seemed very comfortable in. His “methodical” and calculated style of advocacy — contrasting with a more aggressive, saber-rattling approach — is surely rooted in that same persona.

As a bicycle advocacy organization, many would assume that the only approach is to be the antagonist, always looking to lash out at signs of disrespect or discrimination against people who ride. But Bricker has put the BTA on a different course, a more conservative and deliberate one that he is convinced will bring positive results.

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