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Updated: BTA strengthens stance against CRC: Will urge Council to abstain

Posted by on July 7th, 2008 at 9:35 am

[Updated 7/7, 12:00ppm: Read this story for an update.]

With just a few days before the Portland City Council takes an important vote on the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) (along with a growing coalition of organizations) is stepping up its drumbeat of concern.

The BTA has struggled to find their voice and has come under fire from members and other in the community for not being more critical of the estimated $4.2 billion project.

After trying to clarify their position last month, the BTA released their formal comments — which were their most sternly worded yet — to the CRC project team last week.

BTA Executive Director Scott Bricker sent an email to Commissioner Sam Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller this morning, in which he made it clear that the BTA was joining several organizations — led by the Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF) and other environmental groups — that are urging City Council to abstain from their vote on Wednesday.

The BTA, CLF, Environment Oregon, the Audubon Society of Portland, and others have varying degrees of opposition to the project, but they all agree that a key issue of concern is a growing sense that Portland may lose local control of the project (like deciding on design of the bridge and whether or not to analyze key issues like if/how it will reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions) if they vote to support it on Wednesday.

A recent meeting of the CRC Task Force watered down language from Commissioner Adams that sought to retain stronger local oversight of the project moving forward. That lack of control has created uneasiness on the Council and led Commissioner Dan Saltzman to go public with his opposition of the project.

Later today, the BTA will send out an action alert to their members stating their position and they will participate in a press conference tomorrow (6/8).

— The Oregonian published a story today that calls into question just how much the $4.2, 12-lane bridge would alleviate congestion: New I-5 bridge will do little to relieve congestion

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  • KT July 7, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I saw that article– it said that in 2030, we\’d be right back where we currently are in terms of congestion to get across the river.

    It also mentioned about the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter; if congestion in 2030 will be as bad as today, with more vehicles involved, it\’ll be 30 times as bad at the Rose Quarter, unless they change things there, too!

    Is it worth it? Sounds to me like this bridge is a bandaid on a broken leg.

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  • peejay July 7, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Could this be the beginning of the end for the CRC? Let\’s hope so. I\’ve been withholding any donations to the BTA until they stop their support of the bridge fiasco, and while this is not a full reversal, at least it\’s a step in the right direction for the BTA. If they make an unequivocal statement withdrawing all support for a new bridge, they\’ll have my (and many other people\’s) money.

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  • kg July 7, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Can we move beyond the highly suspicous 4.2 billion dollar guess? If it costs 100 million just to study the project does anyone really believe it can be built for as little as 4.2 billion dollars?

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  • Jasun Wurster July 7, 2008 at 10:19 am

    The next few days leading up to the City Council vote are crucial for all to express their views on this Project.

    The pro-business freight companies and residents of Vancouver, WA who work commute across the I-5 bridge are very well organized with their support of this project. What City Council needs it to hear from he residents of Portland expressing your views on this project.

    The onus is on each and every one of us to rally our friends and neighbors in a true grassroots fashion to do the following:

    1) call each of the City Commissioners today, then on Wednesday, June 9th at 2pm go to City Hall and reiterate what you called to say

    2) talk to your friends and family to get them to call and show up at City Hall on the 9th at 2pm

    3) if you are a member of an organization (Neighborhood Association, Bike/Walk/Vote, Serra Club, PTA,…) ask them to publicly comment on this project by creating a press release and talking with the Commissioners.

    Here are the phone numbers to call your City Council:

    Mayor Tom Potter: 503-823-4120
    Commissioner Sam Adams: 503-823-3008
    Commissioner Nick Fish: 503-823-3589
    Commissioner Randy Leonard: 503-823-4682
    Commissioner Dan Saltzman: 503-823-4151

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  • Jim Labbe July 7, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Kudos to the BTA for being flexible in their thinking and strategy. It looked to me a lot like there was some seductive dividing and conquering by freeway bridge proponents in trying to peal the BTA away from other health and environmental advocates.

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  • Karl Rohde July 7, 2008 at 10:45 am

    The $4.2 billion is the high end estimate. The range is $3.1 to $4.2

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  • Andy July 7, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I find it almost comedy that the 405/5 split is considered more of \”an Oregon problem\” given the sheer proportion of traffic that comes / goes from Vancouver along that section during commute time. Granted, we\’re in an unusual situation having a major metropolitan area divided across a state border – but surely someone has to recognize that it\’s in their interest as well to improve traffic efficiency all the way into downtown?

    Maybe we should build a new bridge with 3 southbound and 9 northbound lanes? Then Rose Quarter won\’t be a problem. 😉

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  • steve July 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

    F the BTA.

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  • GLV July 7, 2008 at 11:00 am

    By law (National Environmental Policy Act, which establishes this entire process, and SAFETEA-LU, the current surface transportation bill), only Metropolital Planning Organizations (Metro and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council) are required to approve this project. Whatever the City, TriMet, the Couve Council et al. have to say on it is just window dressing. That said, it would look better for the project\’s prospects if local governments endorsed it, but let\’s not delude ourselves into thinking City Council, or the BTA for that matter, has the power to bind the federal government.

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  • Dennis July 7, 2008 at 11:03 am

    It\’s unfortunate that it has to be an \”All or nothing\” situation. Yes, the existing bridge is substandard. Do we really need six lanes each way? The way I see it, with proper execution of light rail, we can still use three lanes, and eliminate congestion.

    a fundamental change is going to take place, in the way we get around. People opposed to the use of light rail, and bicycles are just not aware of it yet. By foregoing light rail, we are signing up to renew our marriage to oil, and the threat to our economy that it creates.

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  • kg July 7, 2008 at 11:07 am

    The 3.1 to 4.2 billion dollar guesses are based on a price for a barrel of oil in 2030 that is less than a third of what it costs today. How can the estimate for this project remain static over the past year when inflation has been rising?

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  • Karl Rohde July 7, 2008 at 11:12 am

    It\’s changed a little. 9 months ago it was estimated to cost between $2 and $6 billion.

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  • BicycleDave July 7, 2008 at 11:26 am

    My question to my fellow Oregonians is why should we pay to relieve congestion for Clark County commuters? If Clark County\’s commuters want better access to Portland\’s jobs they should pay for it themselves. But even if they paid the entire cost of the bridge it will be our children in North Portland who pay the ultimate cost of increased Asthma rates because of increased pollution due to increased traffic due to all the people moving to Clark County because it is easier to cross the river.

    The American dream of living in the country and driving your SUV 30 miles to work in the city is just not viable, just or humane.

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  • Matt Picio July 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    steve (#8) – care to elaborate? Did the BTA run over your dog or something?

    The BTA may not be an ideal organization, but what organization is? They do a lot of good work, and while their handling of some issues (most notably the \”shock jock\” episode) leaves a lot to be desired, the majority of their work has improved cycling in Portland, at least from my perspective.

    I\’d like to see the BTA solicit more input from the bike community and from its members on issues before they issue policy statements, but I think \”F the BTA\” is a little harsh without more information as to why you\’re so adamantly against them.

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  • woogie July 7, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    \”My question to my fellow Oregonians is why should we pay to relieve congestion for Clark County commuters? If Clark County\’s commuters want better access to Portland\’s jobs they should pay for it themselves.\”

    Clark county commuters do pay for working in Oregon. It\’s called income tax. They pay it to the state of Oregon on every dollar they earn.

    So in fact Clark county commuters are subsidizing the government services you use in Oregon.

    Oregon citizens get a pretty good deal from all those CCCs.

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  • Andy July 7, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Do they pay income tax? Sure. Because the *jobs* are in Oregon.

    I\’d hardly consider it a subsidy when CCC\’s are down here driving on the roads, working in offices, and shopping tax-free. Offices served by Oregon police and fire departments, operating on Oregon utilities. Roads maintained by Oregon DOT crews. Traffic congestion leading to slower commutes and dirtier air for everyone, even those living just a couple of miles from downtown.

    Don\’t get me wrong. We like you guys. But everyone has to share in coming up with a solution. For all our sakes.

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  • steve July 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Matt, as far as i can tell the BTA exists solely as a conduit for \’safe routes to schools funding\’. A look at their staff roster confirms it.

    I have followed the safe routes program for sometime, and feel that it is an enormous expense of money for little return. Of course it is for the children, so nobody is going to argue against it round here.. No matter what they actually DO with the funds.

    Go ask Scotty what he gets paid to do nothing all day.

    This funding source also ties the BTA directly to federal transportation funds. Starts to make sense why the BTA is the last on board to express dissent on the CRC boondoggle, huh? Not that they have the balls to condemn the bridge, something they still have not done.

    The BTA is unaccountable to its members and routinely ignores the best interests of cyclists in our community. We are better off without them and the leeches like Bricker clinging to federal grant handouts.

    I could go into more detail, but you know, ya\’ll are sooo positive about everything. Sure wish we lived in a country that still valued critical thinking skills.

    Imagine, the Bicycle Transportation advocates are hesitant to condemn a 4 billion dollar highway project! And I still need to explain to you why this group sucks?

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  • colin maloney July 7, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Onward Oregon sent out an Action Alert on the CRC directed towards the Portland City Council today.

    If you\’d like to participate, you can visit Onward Oregon\’s Action Center here.

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  • woogie July 8, 2008 at 7:50 am


    Yes it is subsidizing since they don\’t use those services in Oregon. They go back to Washington and use them there.

    As for road use, how much less road use would there be if all those working in Oregon came from Oregon, not much. Those from Clark County spend their time on interstates which they fundedthrough their federal tax dollars. Also to afford the same home in Oregon would require moving further out from their place of work, which would mean more pollution driving further to get into work.

    As for working in the offices, would that change if the employees came from Oregon? Nope,same number of people, same number of offices, same number of light bulbs burning, same number of computers running, same number of toilets flushing…. so no net gain on that front either. And the police and fire departments wouldn\’t change either if all the employees came from Oregon.

    These are nothing but red herring issues. On the plus side the CCCs go back to Clark County and run their dishwahser, and air conditioner up there. They also use Clark County Water etc etc etc.

    The shopping tax free also benefits those who live in Oregon. By having Clark County residents as customers local Oregon retailers sell more, and by doing so get better deals because they buy more from the wholesaler. The wholesaler cuts them a deal for buying in bulk and can either make more profits (or pass the savings on to the customer). But by being successful they are able to pay their taxes to Oregon, pay their employees,and stay open.

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  • Matt Picio July 8, 2008 at 10:14 am

    steve (#17) – being positive about the good aspects of an organization and having critical thinking skills are not mutally exclusive.

    And I\’ve criticized the BTA openly whenever I feel they\’re not acting in the best interest of their members – type in \”matt picio bta\” in the search line of this site, and check out specifically this link:

    Just because many of us support the BTA doesn\’t mean we do so blindly.

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  • sean July 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    wouldn\’t tomorrow be referring to 7/8?

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  • Dennis July 9, 2008 at 9:47 am

    It\’s way, way too easy to blame all of this on CC residents.

    It seems to me that most of the people that I know in CC are seriously concerned about this project as well. This seems like it will make what\’s left of downtown Vancouver into a ghost town.

    All the propaganda you\’re seeing about the \”Crime Train\” is coming from people that benefit from automobiles. The reality is, if it\’s built, it will get used.

    Those of you that believe that Vancouver residents are a drain on Portland\’s infrastructure need to realize something, something very important. Where are you going to move all your poor people, once you\’ve gentrified everything within the urban growth boundary? They won\’t all fit in Gresham.

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