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Anti-CRC rally shows opposition still has strength

Posted by on February 4th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

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Bike Walk Vote board member Lisa Marie White
speaks at the start of an anti-CRC event
held Friday night in Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

There was plenty of evidence in Portland over the weekend of the growing movement to stop the Columbia River Crossing project. On Friday, non-profit political action committee Bike Walk Vote hosted a rally at a bike shop in southeast Portland; and on Saturday, several activists had a sit-down meeting with Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.

At Crank Bicycles on Friday people learned about the project from notable community leaders, filled out letters to send to legislators, signed up for volunteer shifts to lobby state representatives, and donated money to non-profits working to stop the project. The mood was upbeat and the energy level was high as major cracks are beginning to form in the foundation of a project that many people think is inevitable.

For a project that has been fought by activists since about 2006, the event showed that those who oppose it haven’t given up and they’re more organized and fired up than ever before.

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Standing on a stool in a sea of activists, board president of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) Chris Lopez did not mince words. “We are unequivocally against the CRC. So much so that we sued the state over this thing.” Lopez acknowledged that the state lawsuit didn’t pan out, so they’ve now sued the federal government. He and other volunteers from NECN are in Salem this week lobbying legislators. “Don’t let them fool you,” he told the crowd, “This is not a bridge project. It’s a highway project and it’s something that doesn’t need to be built… We cannot afford this, it shouldn’t happen, and we can’t do this to future Oregonians! It’s time to take action!”

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NE Coalition of Neighborhoods Board President Chris Lopez

Lopez ended his speech with a warning to legislators: “We have to let our legislators know that if they can’t get behind us on this, then maybe they don’t need to be our legislators for much longer.”

We learned Friday night that non-profit environmental justice organization Coalition for a Livable Future is hiring a full-time lobbyist to work in Salem starting today. CLF’s Board President Jo Ann Hardesty said the lobbyist will talk with every legislator. “They’ll tell them that this project is not acceptable, that Portlanders don’t want it, Oregonians don’t want it, and we can’t afford it.” “There’s nothing about this project that passes the smell test,” she added. “We the people get to decide what a livable community looks like, and that ain’t it.”

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Jo Ann Hardesty of CLF

Metro Councilor (and former executive director of land-use non-profit 1000 Friends of Oregon) Bob Stacey was next to address the crowd. He painted a picture of what our neighborhoods will look like if this project goes through:

“The bridge is 10 lanes, re-stripable to 12 (not counting shoulders, so you could get to 14 lanes if you want). But even at just 10 lanes, it connects to a 6-lane freeway on the Oregon side. What do we need 10 lanes for? The project description has always said we need to push another 50,000 cars through there every morning and night because we’ll have sprawling development in Clark County and those folks will continue to work in Oregon. Where are they going to go on the Oregon side? They’re going to go to Vancouver Avenue, to MLK Blvd, they’ll split off and go to the St. Johns Bridge…There’s going to be massive traffic jams on I-5 southbound, cut-through traffic, a significant increase in air pollution in north and northeast Portland neighborhoods.”

I also recorded his remarks:

Video of Metro Councilor Bob Stacey’s speech.

Stacey said both the City of Portland and Metro have required the CRC project to fund a mitigation program for impacted neighborhoods. “But out of the $3.5 billion budget,” he said, “the project has put aside zero for mitigation programs.”

Then there’s the tolling plan. Stacey is one of many skeptics who think the project’s tolling plans won’t pan out. Once the tolls are put into place, Stacey feels traffic will just avoid I-5, opting instead for the nearby I-205, which would, “Swamp the Banfield [I-84 freeway] and all the east-west arterials through Portland.”

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Bob Stacey

Stacey called the project a “series of dumb ideas piled on one another” that has been pushed by a “$160 million PR machine”. That same “PR machine”, he added, is “now trying to sell a $450 million down payment by Oregon taxpayers.” (Referring to HB 2260, which activists are calling a blank check for a bad project.)

Then Ron Buel — introduced by Stacey as the “Godfather” and a man many credit as a key part in the movement to stop the Mt. Hood Freeway project — came to the front and showed he still has lots of fight left in him. (Stacey referred to the CRC as “this generation’s Mt. Hood freeway.”)

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Ron Buel

Buel is spearheading a group of nine people who have made it their mission to speak face-to-face with 30 state legislators to “sow doubt” about the CRC.

“Let’s look at what’s really going on here. The power elite of this city and this state are on board.”
— Ron Buel

Buel understands how political power works and he’s alarmed at how its shaking out with this project. “Let’s look at what’s really going on here,” he said, at the outset of his speech. “The power elite of this city and this state are on board.” Buel named Senators Wyden and Merkley, all the organized labor groups (except teachers), The Oregonian (he said they’ve written 37 editorials in support of the project since June 2008), and the main business groups as being strongly in support of the CRC.

“This is a steamroller folks! And we’re trying to stop it… And the odds are way against us. Way against us. But, I gotta say, that despite that, despite that, we’re going to win and they’re going to lose.”

Buel pointed out that in many ways, CRC project backers have already lost. He cited the lack of a Coast Guard permit to move forward (due to height restrictions), a pending lawsuit from a metal fabrication company in Vancouver, and strong opposition in Clark County as just some of the major cracks forming in the project. (For a good update on where the project stands, read this article in today’s edition of The Columbian)

As for the growing opposition to the CRC among Republican elected officials in Clark County, Buel said, “They’re not your bike-loving liberal democrats. We’ve been working with some of them and we call ourselves the Green Tea Party.”

Anti CRC sign at town hall meeting

Anti-CRC sign seen at a town hall
meeting in Woodlawn on Saturday.
The meeting featured State Senator Chip Shields
and State Reps Tina Kotek and Lew Frederick.

Another roadblock facing the CRC that activists want to raise awareness of is the inability for the project to secure federal funds. CRC backers are looking for $850 million from the Federal Transit Administration to extend light rail into Vancouver. Buel thinks that because the closest Vancouver station is 38 minutes on the MAX to downtown Portland, it won’t be an attractive option. “So, are you going to get in your car if you live in La Center, Battle Ground, or Ridgefield and drive to one of the three big parking garages [which incidentally cost $167 million to build]?”

Buel added if C-Tran (the area’s transit authority) tries to fund the project without federal funding and from another pot of state money, it will require a vote of support from a public that recently voted 56% against light rail.

Buel also thinks getting a large federal grant to pay for the project is unlikely, given that both members of Congress that represent the project area are not big supporters. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-SW Washington) has been very vocally opposed to it, and Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) has remained neutral. “Thank God for Earl Blumenauer,” said Ron Buel, “He has remained neutral throughout this entire thing, he has not been an advocate for it.”

“How do you get an earmark for federal highway money if neither of the members in the district ask for it?”

Buel stressed that Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek (D-NE Portland) is the key to killing the CRC. On Saturday, Buel and several others (including noted economist Joe Cortright) had a sit-down meeting with Rep. Kotek prior to a town hall event in Woodlawn. According to a source who was at the meeting, Kotek re-affirmed her support for the CRC, saying she wants to make sure it’s “the best project possible” and saying they are working on a number of issues. (Unfortunately, the CRC was not mentioned at all during a packed town hall meeting.)

Speaker of the Oregon House Tina Kotek

Oregon State Representative and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, shown here at a Town Hall meeting Saturday, supports the CRC project.

With a bill in the legislature, the clock is ticking for activists to find allies and make progress. At this point, politicians against the project have been hard to find (or to get a clear opinion from on the record). That will have to change if activists want momentum to finally shift in their favor.

— Stay tuned for more coverage.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Associating the anti-CRC movement with the “Tea Party” in any way is about as smart as associating it with that people’s party in 1930’s Germany or that “white men’s club” from the deep southern United States.

It will come back to bite us, win or lose.


I oppose the CRC/B(u)RP. Beyond the billions we can’t afford on the immediate project, it will take billions more to expand the freeway in North Portland and beyond.

But with that said, inaction doesn’t come cheap, either. The Mt. Hood Freeway was defeated, but so were the people who live, walk, bike, and drive along Powell and the Fairview-Gresham surface street corridors. Of course, those people don’t have the same clout as the folks in Ladd’s and South Tabor who would’ve had a freeway aligned on Division.

David Sweet
David Sweet

Thank you, Jonathan, for your excellent, ongoing coverage of this costly, risky highway mega-project. The Governor has asked the legislature to sign a blank check for this project this month–before they deal with school funding or any of the other crucial money issues that will come up this session. We all need to contact our representatives now, and tell them that it is irresponsible to continue throwing money at this bloated project.


I am thrilled to see smart and capable people working to stop this, and I find it appalling how many people do not know that there is anything controversial about this project. I hope this movement can get some widespread coverage, and thanks Jonathan for covering this!

Garlynn Woodsong
Garlynn Woodsong

So, I wrote to Tina Kotek, and she did write back. For better or for worse, this is what she had to say (just received this morning):


Thank you for e-mailing in regard to the Columbia River Crossing. I have reviewed the information provided for the Common Sense Alternative and continue to engage with stakeholders on all sides of the debate. However, I firmly support the work we have done on the Columbia River Crossing and support the current project plan. Although we may differ in our point of view, I appreciate reading your thoughts. I feel the CRC is a project of critical statewide importance. My goal is to hold the project accountable, achieve our safety and economic development goals and deliver results in a fiscally responsible manner.

Please continue to send your perspective and feedback during this legislative session.

Rep. Tina Kotek”

She doesn’t mince words; she supports the current project and disagrees with the Common Sense Alternative, and won’t change her position just because we ask her to.

What’s Plan B, since changing her mind doesn’t seem to be working?

Peter W

Thanks for sharing this story, Jonathan.

The CRC is flawed in so many ways, and there is absolutely no need for it (unless, of course, you are just trying to dump money at your political friends).

Here’s a quick run down (see graphic at bottom of article), showing how the reasons to build this don’t really hold up:$25_billion_bribe.html


I think we ask Rep Kotek to keep and open mind:

Rep Kotek,
I have the following concerns about the CRC, and while I realize that you are a supporter, I hope you can spare a few moments and address these for me:

1. This bridge is too low. It is inexcusable to put an industry out of business, and ask the Coast Guard to buy smaller equipment to build a bridge to “move freight”. Ships are getting larger, dredges may need to get larger, not smaller.
2. This will foster sprawl in Vancouver and create traffic diversions throughout North and Northeast Portland. Going from 10-12 lanes down to 6 will simply move the traffic jam farther south and ruin neighborhoods.
3. Tolling models and traffic models used as part of the bridge study have been shown to be inaccurate, yet the CRC team has not addressed this. This will lead to build something we do not need and cannot pay for.
4. This bridge is way too big! It has been shown over and over that highway expansions do not work. Building a 10-14 lane bridge and highway expansion that bottlenecks to 6 lanes simply moves the problem, and sets the stage for more highway expansion through our city. This equals more health problems, more greenhouse gasses, more light and noise pollution, more violent deaths. And most recent studies show that traffic counts are not increasing. Oregon should not be promoting 1950’s style highway expansions that it cannot afford and whose citizens do not want.

I appreciate that you are fighting for money and jobs for Oregon, but please consider that this is not the Oregon we want! This encourages pollution, congestion and debt. There is a finite amount of funding, and this extravagant project will come at the expense of the environment, quality of life, and education. This is simply the wrong project, and I hope will consider ending your support for it.

Lisa Marie

Thank you so much for the article and for continuing to cover this issue. We can’t afford this project, and that’s not just the $3.5 billion+ price tag: it’s the less-easily quantified costs to livability communities, the damage to our neighbors’ and families’ health, and the required, unsustainable maintenance for generations to come.

In Portland, we value our communities, our neighbors, and livable streets that provide access for all. Portlanders do not want this project. Oregonians do not want this project. It’s time to change course. We can do better.

It’s our government, and it’s time those elected to represent your interests hear from you: write your representatives (

And to learn more about why this wasteful project is unnecessary, this article is a great summary:

Hart Noecker

Thanks again, Jonathan. More photos, info, and actions can be found here:

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0

For any of you counting your chickens, be careful what you count on the Washington side. Sen. Murray, Sen. Cantwell and Gov. Inslee all support the CRC. Vancouver Mayor Leavitt does, too, despite his winning campaign rhetoric against tolls. The opposition expressed by Herrera-Beutler and Madore is only in regards to tolls and light rail. If those were taken off the table, neither they nor their electoral bases would object to a bigger freeway.

Andrew K
Andrew K

Thank you for this report. Reading this inspired me to stay up late this evening and write letters to my state and federal representatives including the Governor.

Who knows, maybe our politicians are too entrenched in the idea of moving forward on this to the point where writing letters doesn’t do any good. Maybe not. I have no other choice but to try.

In the meantime, this is not one of those projects that can be easily abandoned considering the amount of money dumped into the design phase already. Thankfully no construction has actually started so there is still a chance.


Has CRC passed the WA legislature? I thought they were tapped out with the big Alaska Way Viaduct tunnel project in Seattle.

As utterly distasteful as I find the Tea Party, it might not be a bad idea to harness their “cut spending” rhetoric & energy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, etc, etc.

Kotek, et al on the left need to be threatened with primary opponents. As for Plan B, Earl Blumenaur seems to be key. If he can be convinced to come out against the CRC, others may fall in line behind him. Our Senators disappoint. I wonder if this is money talking. Has anyone looked into campaign contributions from stakeholders who support this project?

(Sorry this is disjointed. It’s too dang early!)

Chris Anderson

By the time the construction on CRC is completed (hope it doesn’t come to that) it will be obsolete. Many folks don’t yet grok that self-driving cars are moving from sci-fi to reality at a very quick pace. One this happens, the highway infrastructure we already have will seem overbuilt, due to the increased traffic density you can get when computers do the driving. I guess at that point we could depave 6 of the 12 lanes and make a Manhattan style green line park over the river…


Heard on OPB this morning:
An Oregon Seismic Advisory Commission is meeting in Portland today to discuss the $30 BILLION in seismic upgrades that are NEEDED to survive a 9.0 earthquake off the Oregon coast.

Smells like CRC boosters boxing us in for the kill.
If this commission shows that we “hafta” spend money we don’t have then the CRC will get this blank check no questions asked.

Then we are fighting the “in for a penny, in for a pound” mentality once a certain amount of money has been wasted.


Do not get into bed with the wingers! They will leave you feeling disgusted and ashamed the next morning, when the bridge gets built without light rail or adequate bike facilities, and with the blessing of your supposed partner.

We oppose the project for clear and logical reasons, so let’s not be frightened of saying so. Mixing messages with people who oppose the same project for ignorant and reactionary reasons does not help state our case at all.


Seems like our reps fail basic logic:

1. Something needs to be done.
2. The CRC plan is something.
3. Therefore the CRC needs to be done.

is not a valid syllogism.


I like the 2nd photo. People look pissed!


Just kinda tangent but CRC is really a lot like Cars-R-Coffins, but one is for the better.


Jonathan, or any others aware of the technical analyses: are
there any good estimates of the potential congestion impacts to I-205?
For a project where freight is a priority, what is the NET freight or NET
congestion balance, that takes into account congestion increases on I-205?
With tolls on I-5 only, the picture is presumably not great for businesses
that depend on I-205, nor commuters and residents in East Multnomah County or Clackamas County. Maybe leaders against CRC can add allies in
these places too.


Since the CRC bridge will be too low for some marine traffic as planned, has anyone thought about what happens to the Columbia River water levels with global warming/sea level rise. You know that the tides affect river level upriver all the way to Bonneville Dam. That would seem to indicate that the bridge clearance would become less over time.


For a mayor who ran on going back to the basics and fixing pot holes this seems outlandish to say the least. 3.5 billion is an outrageous amount for what is an inconvenience.

Gillian Wallis
Gillian Wallis

Thanks for mentioning those three parking garages, costing $167 million. What should also be mentioned is that those garages, holding almost 3,000 cars, are all downtown, bringing in more traffic and congestion. One of these garages, at the foot of the bridge, will destroy an almost 100 year old historic building, the Lucky Lager Warehouse.