Last week, Columbia River Crossing project staff and state DOT officials from Oregon and Washington pitched a kinder, gentler version of the controversial project to legislators in Salem. Responding to widespread criticisms that the project is too big and too expensive, CRC backers have trimmed $650 million from the cost of the project and reduced the number of lanes from 12 to 10.
But, while the revamped plans have won support among some lawmakers lured by the potential of thousands of jobs, the move has emboldened grassroots opposition. The Coalition to Stop the Columbia River Crossing sent out an email one day after the new plans surfaced claiming a “Big victory on the CRC!” and used the opportunity to rally the troops for a protest action.
“Why waste more of the public’s time and resources cutting elements one by one from an unpopular plan that we can’t afford?”
— from a blog post by the BTA encouraging attendance at an anti-CRC protest
On December 4th, when the CRC’s Project Sponsors Council meets in downtown Portland to approve or reject the new proposal, the Stop the CRC group plans to rally in protest with street theater and “a massive turn out” to oppose the “new and (not) improved plan.”
The scaled back project proposal also seems to have only increased calls by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) to scrap the plans altogether. The BTA has already joined other non-profits to push for a complete re-start to solving congestion problems in the I-5 corridor, but now they’ve thrown their weight behind the grassroots for the first time. In a blog post last night, the BTA wrote:
“Why waste more of the public’s time and resources cutting elements one by one from an unpopular plan that we can’t afford? Join grassroots opposition group Stop the CRC! on December 4 at the Project Sponsors’ Council meeting to demand that we start over with a smarter project built upon shared goals. We all have an interest in expanding transportation options and reducing the strain of automobile dependency…”
Is this support of Stop the CRC! a sign of the “the more aggressive organization” the BTA has said they’d like to become? Do anti-CRC groups smell blood now that the state DOTs have retreated a bit? Will the scaled-back plans help the CRC re-gain its momentum? Stay tuned for a report from the Sponsors Council meeting on December 4th.