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BTA responds to Oregonian editorial: “CRC project is a $4 billion mistake”

Posted by on August 19th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Last week we pointed out an article by The Oregonian’s editorial board about funding for the bike and pedestrian facility on the new I-5 bridge.

The response was written by BTA Board Chair Mary Roberts and Vice-Chair Stephen Gomez on behalf of the Board and the Staff Advocacy Committee. Here’s the BTA’s response:

“The Oregonian’s point about looking closely at the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is well-taken and examining the goal of the project is the most obvious place to start.

Rather than merely aiming to move more “trains, cars, and trucks” across the river, the goals ought to be to improve the quality of communities and health of the economy in the close surrounding areas, the region, and farther. However, building this bridge and seven interchanges would win the battle of peak-hour auto congestion but lose the larger, more significant war for an improved economy, better health, clean air, livability, and prudent investment. 

This CRC project is, and remains, a $4 billion mistake. As conceived, it is, quite simply, money not well spent in creating higher quality communities. To be fair, it is a complex project with real needs to be met – such as improved traffic safety, transit access and freight mobility. But, the seven-mile project corridor lacks consistent bike-able paths and roadways, making this is a bike bridge to nowhere for cyclists.

I urge the project team to heed the community’s desires and envision a transportation corridor for the 21st century. This is the northwest, a bastion of creative thinking and environmental innovation. Surely we can do better.”

This response has not yet been published (either as a letter to the editor or a guest editorial) by The Oregonian.

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  • Matt Picio August 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I applaud the BTA’s board – awesome response, let’s continue to hear more strong language and actions to back it up. Community support is there, this is the town that killed the Mount Hood Freeway (and others) and removed Harbor Drive to create Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We can and will do better!

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  • Drew August 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks to Mary and Stephen. Actions will speak louder than words, so let this be a start. On a side note, I am consistently discouraged by the Oregonian. Somehow, someway we need to get the senators and congressman from OR and WA on the same page as this letter.

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  • Brad August 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Ouch! BTA used the word “bikeable” and “cyclists” in their objection. I think most will read this response when published and think, “Awww! Poor little bike riders will have it rough. Too bad!”

    I am beginning to understand the BTA’s lack of effectiveness if this is an example of their work. Less wonk, more straight talk! If people living along I-5 were aware of increased traffic at the new bottlenecks (on their streets!), foul air, more asthma for their kids and grandkids then this might have some oomph.

    This sounds like bike riders not having a nice ride is the only downside of the CRC.

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  • wsbob August 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    “…building this bridge and seven interchanges would win the battle of peak-hour auto congestion…”

    The proposed bridge, without supporting, improved land use regulations and limitations on the number of cars allowed to use the bridge, cannot win that battle. Eliminating or reducing ways to get across the bridge without a motor vehicle will only compound the failure to win that battle.

    Glad to see though, that the BTA is standing up for a design that provides better bike-pedestrian amenities. It should be going for the optimum bike-ped possible. The bridge would be an easy bike or walking commute if home and work opportunities were located short distances from either end of the bridge.

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  • Mike August 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Imagine if the BTA had started this 2 years ago!

    Better late than never?

    Or perhaps they are finally seeing memberships falling off due to ineffectiveness and are trying to salvage?

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  • cold worker August 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    i’m with brad…

    “…a bike bridge to nowhere for cyclists.”

    i’m 100% opposed to building a new bridge. the problem isn’t that the bridge is inadequate but that people make the wrong transportation choices. but lines like that one just seem so whiny…

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  • la otra August 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I’d like to believe the best from the BTA, but again, just when we expect strong leadership — and just when they gain the forum of the Oregonian OpEd page — they issue a very weak response. This is not about the bikes! It’s about the livability of the communities! They started to say that, but then biffed it towards the end. Your typical O reader will throw down his paper in disgust, muttering “all they do is whine, whine, whine about more bike lanes!”

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  • Todd Boulanger August 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Rally your Oregonian readers to contact the Oregonian Editorial Board to suggest they bike or walk across the bridge and BIA without a guide…

    [I doubt any have ever crossed the BIA other than in a car (or plane).]

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  • old&slow August 19, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    It was not a bad response. It does make it a little bike phobic but they are a bike advocacy group so what would anybody expect. The public in general should be outraged by the cost. I don’t get where they get this cost from. I work in the engineering business and work on bridges all over the country. 4 billion is ridiculous, the new San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge is “only” 5 billion. It is also about 10 times the length. The Zakim bridge in Boston for anybody who has been there has become a landmark, a beautiful bridge that is about the same length, was built in an urban environment with more constraints than the CRC and cost 1 billion.
    There are a lot more reasons than biking to oppose this boondoggle.

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  • old&slow August 19, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    This is was in tonights Oregonian and was a really thoughtful response to the CRC proposal. Better than the BTA response, I hope they don’t mind my cut and paste, this is from Kaiser Permanente.

    Encourage biking, walking
    We were disappointed to see the editorial board’s failure to prioritize the health of our community when considering the cost and design of the Columbia River Crossing (“Talking the walk over the Columbia River,” Aug.14).

    Creating safe, sufficient, well-designed pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is vital to the health of our region. It is essential that the final design for the Columbia River Crossing includes optimal bicycle and pedestrian facilities that promote walking and biking for pleasure and transportation.

    Studies show a high quality pedestrian and bicycle environment supports walking and biking for transportation and recreation. Investing in the facilities that
    provide a safe and pleasant experience will save money over time by increasing physical activity, improving air quality and slowing climate change, which all lead to lower health care costs.

    It is time we prioritize active forms of transportation that allow people to get out of their cars and improve the health of the community.

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  • Pete August 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    brad, you said what I was thinking. If it’s in response to the Oregonian it may be best to target their readership, which I can only assume is represented by the intelligence level of comments on their blog. It started out well with a focus on the health of the communities as a whole.

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  • Joe Rowe August 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Amen Brad!!!!

    quote: ” If people living along I-5 were aware of increased traffic at the new bottlenecks (on their streets!), foul air, more asthma for their kids and grandkids then this might have some oomph.”

    Not to mention the lower home sale prices.

    I wish the BTA could learn to oppose this not just from the NIMBY attitude. The BTA should be using some of it’s public engagement budget to contact all the churches and neighborhood associations to form an alliance.

    Albina St and other feeder streets are used heavily whenever Interstate 5 backs up. It will be worse with any new bridge that promotes people commuting alone. The backup is sometimes the bridge but often not, the squeeze is at many locations in N. Portland where I-5 is two lanes.

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  • Lenny Anderson August 20, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Sadly, OTC (Oregon Transportation Commission) gave the CRC PR team another $30 million to keep the thing alive, and the FHWA (Federal Highway Admin.) is touting the CRC as an “environmental model” for transportation projects.
    Someone needs to get DeFasio to kill this project.

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  • Dave August 20, 2009 at 9:38 am

    BTA needs to emphasize that the I-5 bridge expansion is pro-terrorist. It will enhance and encourage single-occupant-vehicle use. Those vehicles will almost all use gasoline. Almost all of the oil for that gasoline will have Saudi-sourced content of some amount. Saudi Arabia cannot be separated from terrorist financing–many Saudi royal family members are major sugar daddies to Al Qaeda–any more than Lance Armstrong can be separated from bike racing. BTA should be running ads showing pictures of Osama bin Laden and the burning World Trade center, linking autocentric development directly to terrorism. They’re laughing at us when we propose insane projects like the new Columbia Crossing!

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  • la otra August 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm


    I’m sorry, but I disagree. Kaiser Permanente (part of the Health industrial complex that’s responsible for our skyrocketing health care costs, in addition to bankrolling the astroturfing pseudo anti-reform movement) is just ignoring the main problem with the CRC. It’s not about the bike and ped facilities; it’s all about the added car and truck capacity. If you don’t stop the extra car lanes, you could have fully-carpeted bike and pedestrian lanes with free organic vegetable vending machines, and complimentary massages available at either end, and it will still be a total failure of a project. But who am I to question Kaiser’s motives?

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