Special gravel coverage

Anti-CRC movement growing as possible funding vote nears

Posted by on January 11th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

On NE Going and 7th Ave.
(Photos @ J. Maus/BikePortland

Could this be the moment where activists finally build a lasting, high-visibility opposition to the Columbia River Crossing mega-project? For years now there’s been a deafening silence when it comes to organized opposition to the estimated $3.5 billion project that seeks to expand five miles of I-5, build new on-ramps, and replace the bridge.

Sure there have been a rally, a few rides and other actions against the CRC; but they’ve been small, short-lived, and done by grassroots activists with little or no budgets. And as of yet, none of the major local transportation and/or environmental advocacy groups have stepped up to lead a charge. For a project of this magnitude, it’s confounding that the region that opposed the Mt. Hood Freeway has failed to produce a major movement to counter the slick and well-funded CRC Project PR and marketing machine.

But now, as Governor Kitzhaber and state legislators put the pieces in place to vote on spending nearly a half-billion on the project, there are signs that an opposition movement is finally beginning to coalesce. Further fueling the fire of active transportation activists are fears that cost-cutting measures might result in cutbacks and/or a phasing strategy that could impact the bridge’s promised bicycling and walking paths.

Anti 12-lane CRC Ride-35

“We have to stop this project. Now is the time. Who is ready to do what they can?”
— Dan Kaufman, livable streets activist

In that same vein, on December 11th, citizen activist Dan Kaufman attempted to resurrect the “We are All Traffic” email list that was formed in response to the two tragic bike fatalities of October 2007. “When we decommissioned the group it was with the understanding that we would revive when/as needed. I strongly believe now is that time… We have to stop this project. Now is the time. Who is ready to do what they can?”

And there are even signs that veteran activist who led the charge against the Mt. Hood Freeway back in the 1970s are getting back into the fray. Sources say Ron Buel and several others are actively tracking developments in Salem and lobbying legislators about their concerns.

Today, Portland Transport reported that a rally is planned for next week on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol. According to Third Bridge Now, the group organizing the event, the rally is meant to raise awareness among state lawmakers that, “The Columbia River Crossing transportation project is a NO GO ON STATE FUNDING. We can do so much better, and we must.” After the rally, volunteers will meet face-to-face in the offices of their state representatives.

The major push at this point is education. Activist must educate legislators (and their constituents) that the CRC project isn’t as much of a slam dunk as project backers and staffers are making it seem. A “Fact Sheet For Legislators” is being shared around Salem that hits on all the holes in the project including: “Reducing Congestion with the CRC is a fantasy”, “Debt service is 29% of ODOT’s budget, and the CRC will grow it rapidly,” “No Coast Guard Permit on height and river clearance,” “No ability yet to apply for federal light rail money,” and more.

On the political side, it’s still hard to find Oregon elected officials who will take a strong (and clear) stance against the project. One exception is freshman Metro Councilor Bob Stacey who wasted no time in publicly questioning the project and floating alternative approaches.

People that oppose this project are right to see this as a crucial moment. While Kitzhaber has made his strong support of the project crystal clear, support on the Washington side of the border is anything but. Anti-light rail advocates and elected officials have stirred up roadblocks and controversy around the project. Oregon activists know that the project still has major flaws (from a lack of funding to design issues) and if a high-profile opposition can be coupled with more public awareness about the project’s negative impacts, it’s viability might be jeopardy.

There are CRC funding bills being discussed in Salem as I type this. Our elected officials are trying to settle their own positions on the project. Will this fledgling opposition blossom into a powerful and persuasive force? Or will it die down like it has so many times in the past? The future of the CRC project — and regional transportation plans and budgets — hang in the balance.

— Stay tuned for more CRC coverage.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Spiffy January 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    It seems that the only people in favor of the massive CRC boondoggle are suffering from confirmation bias because it’s easy to see why it shouldn’t be built.

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    • q`Tzal January 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Don’t forget the tired drumbeat of “It’ll make jobs. If you are against the CRC you are against jobs and therefore against the working class American.”

      If we are determined to stimulate the economy through profligate government spending why don’t we spend that proposed CRC budget on free mental health care?

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    • Marid January 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Actually, it is not so easy. The present bridge is terrible and leaving things as-is is not a viable option.

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      • 9watts January 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

        Oh, right.

        Except that on the list of dangerous old-and-rickety-and-might-collapse bridges the I-5 bridge I am told is not particularly close to being the worst.

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        • Marid January 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm

          Except that the most important bridge in the state can’t even be close to rickety-and-might-collapse. The I-5 corridor is the economic lifeline of the entire west coast. To think that the CRC project will not be completed is like thinking we’ll tear down the dams on the Columbia River. You don’t tear down 1 gigawatt power plants that irrigate the deserts east of the Cascades. And you don’t allow an old bridge to continue to choke the major freeway connecting Seattle to Los Angeles.

          In politics you follow the money. Nine times out of ten you’ll know the future.

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          • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 8:22 am

            ” we’ll tear down the dams on the Columbia River. ”

            Hey, there’s another good idea. I assume you are aware that this is exactly what is being proposed for the four lower dams on the Snake River? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dam_removal

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            • Marid January 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

              Live in the real world.

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              • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

                I think we live in the same world. I just have a different view of how we could spend our public dollars, and I don’t measure our resilience much less my happiness in ton-miles that cross the Columbia every year.

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              • q`Tzal January 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm

                While I agree with you 100 % we live in the Tyranny of the Majority otherwise known as Democracy.

                Unfortunately, as a majority, we are stuck in a short term planning “profits are all that matters” mindset.
                When a society worships money as completely as we do, from government GDP numbers to corporate earnings reports all the way down to individual people defining their self worth by their bank balance and conspicuous consumption, it is little wonder that all group decisions come back to making a quick buck.


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              • Rol January 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

                The real world? Sounds good: The existing, real, bridge.

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          • Joseph E January 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

            Nah, the 205 bridge is a better route for Washington to California traffic. I’m sure the long-haul truckers know to avoid I-5 thru central Portland.
            Let’s just switch the signs: I-5 will now go thru East Portland, and the current centra I-5 route can be called 105 or 305 instead.

            And most of the CRC project is not about the bridge. We could just retrofit or replace the current bridge for a fraction of the CRC cost.

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            • Evan Manvel January 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

              Some truckers from CA to WA use Highway 97 to avoid all the expensive and time-sucking hills on I-5 in Southern Oregon.

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          • Evan Manvel January 14, 2013 at 7:53 am

            Third things: first, more traffic goes over the I-205 bridge than the I-5 spans. Second, read ODOT’s Bridge Condition Report about what bridges (elsewhere on I-5) are more likely to collapse. Third, ODOT itself said the existing spans will be okay for the next 55 years. In their own words:

            “This personalized care, combined with large maintenance projects, has kept the [I-5] spans healthy and free of weight restrictions. With ongoing preservation, the bridges can serve the public for another 60 years.”


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      • Hart Noecker January 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm

        Why did ODOT’s own website cite that the current I-5 bridge has another 5–60 years left in its natural life with a cheap seismic refit up until only a few months ago?


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  • Chris I January 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The problem with activism for the CRC is the fact that doesn’t seem possible for the project to be funded as planned. The states have not been able or willing to pony up the money, and with the cuts at the federal level, the chances are even less likely. If this seemed to be a done deal, financially, I would imagine there might be stronger opposition.

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  • 9watts January 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Third Bridge Now (a phrase that is new to me) as a preferred alternative for this project is semantically at odds with the movement in Salem to Stop the Third Bridge down there which is a very similar if not quite as big a boondoggle.

    So many fires.
    Thanks for staying on top of this, Jonathan.

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    • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      An important article was just published about Salem’s planned third bridge (CRC to the South)in the Salem Weekly. It is striking how similar the bad politics, bad faith, bad assumptions, & bad financial prospects are in the two cases. I urge you to read it.

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      • Curt in Salem January 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Thanks for calling attention to our bridge revolt to the south! Though ours too is more highway than bridge. Ours will actually cost local taxpayers more than the CRC ($500mil.+), so the size of the boondoggle depends on what you use for a measuring stick. Jonathan is making me feel like we are significantly ahead of CRC opponents in that we will likely have a major impact on the locally preferred alternative. The best coverage is on the Breakfast on Bikes Blog: http://breakfastonbikes.blogspot.com/p/third-bridge-rivercrossing.html

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    • bicycle rider January 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Third Bridge is a joke to create a new freeway through North Portland, its the Common Sense Alternative that is the best choice of any.

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      • 9watts January 12, 2013 at 11:21 pm

        Let’s not forget the cheapest of all (Marid won’t like it) –
        the Do Nothing Alternative.
        Had we pursued that, we would still have the $130Million or thereabouts already sunk into studying the options. We could have put that to work for all kinds of projects that actually have a future. Come to think of it, they might even have (had) a present. Doesn’t take as long to build decent bike infrastructure as it takes to study this foolish nonsense.

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  • spencer January 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    CRC = more carbon in the air, more sprawling WA suburbs to our North, more congestion in Portland, more fractured Portland neighborhoods, and more fiscally irresponsible govt spending. Lets STOP this thing!

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  • Dan January 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    As a former Clark County Commuter, I think that expanding the bridge is a joke. The massive traffic jam has nothing to do with an out-dated bridge and everything to do with single occupant vehicles. Refuse to expand the bridge, force them onto light-rai, and the freight traffic will have no problem getting across. The Interstate HIghway System is NOT meant for short trips; it is for moving freight (yes, and people) over long distances. Try using surface streets instead of I-5/405/26 and see how well it works. Yes, you might have to plan more time for your trip, but you’ll adjust…

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  • Eric in Seattle January 12, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Common Sense Now! (Or at least let’s take an honest look at it.)

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  • bicycle rider January 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Love that stop sign sticker, there must be some awesome person who I assume lives near that stop sign because I saw one previously nearby at 9th/Alberta that said STOP “Building Roads”

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  • jim January 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    We might have a difference of opinion on a lot of things, but I agree that this bridge proposal should be stopped. There are other ways to solve the problem at hand without spending near that much money.
    If you have time, go to Salem and make yourself heard down there, not parading around Portland.

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    • Hart Noecker January 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Sound advice, I’ll be pedaling down there Friday morning for the rally. Hope others can do the same 🙂

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  • Bob Wallis January 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Jonathan: I am just like you. Every time I take a vacation, I come back with a clearer mind, and a little more energy. For those that have a clear mind, a huge investment in building more lanes is absurd. Those who have energy want to do something about this absurdity. Please go on more vacations.

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  • Jeffrey Bernards January 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Has our government heard of climate change? The amount of concrete, steel and oil fueled machinery is a HUGE carbon footprint just to build the bridge. Then you add all the cars to the formula and were taking the environment in the wrong direction.
    Borrowing for a better economy? There’s a $16 trillion debt that tells me it hasn’t really worked out that way.
    If the bridge every gets built, that’s a big IF, were soon going to be told we need to drive less to reduce CO2, so I feel the bridge is going to be an expensive monument to yesterdays economy.
    Shipping goods and food miles and miles is the economy of today & yesterday but it is not the economy of the future. We must take our limits funds and invest in the future not the past.

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  • Evan January 14, 2013 at 9:15 am

    If we were to start tolling the existing bridge now, in order to bank money for future improvements, we would probably never need those improvements. Why? Because SOV traffic on the bridge would go down and all of a sudden delays for all users would also decrease. Maintenance costs would also be somewhat reduced because less traffic = less wear and tear on the roads. Of course we all know that most of the wear is caused by freight and not cars, so in reality maintenance costs may not be reduced. But at least traffic would be reduced.
    TOLL THE EXISTING BRIDGE NOW, and then see how bad users want to pay for it. I suspect support will go down very quickly.

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  • Unit January 14, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Where is that warm, sunny, T-shirt-friendly place shown in the photo? 🙂

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  • Joe Rowe January 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    It’s not perfect, but I’ve created a phone list and petition for contacting Salem lawmakers

    a) Petition

    b) Phone list with a way to share the phone call results

    The links above have even more links to all the news over the last 6 years I’ve been following this. Please get involved with the many groups working on active transportation.

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  • Joe January 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    just say NO 🙂 I-5 nightmare

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