Activists see Monday hearing as last chance to stop CRC bill

Anti 12-lane CRC Ride-6
Scene from a 2009 anti-CRC rally.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

House Bill 2800 — and in some ways the future of Columbia River Crossing project — is up for another hearing at the state capitol on Monday. Activists against the project, who packed hearing rooms this past Monday, hope for a repeat performance in order to “make sure the narrative remains on our side.”

Others see Monday’s hearing as a “last chance” effort to stop the bill. If passed, HB 2800 would declare that it’s in Oregon’s state interest to fund and move forward with the project. The bill would free up the bonding and tolling authority necessary so the state can come up with its share — $450 million — of the project’s $3.6 billion price tag. But critics call the bill a “blank check” that unleashes a series of scary financial obligations.

“This could be our last chance and a huge turnout could be the only thing to stop it. This could be it.”
— Dan Kaufman

Regional political action committee Bike Walk Vote is organizing carpools from Portland to Salem via Facebook. The Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, an umbrella group that represents 12 Portland neighborhood associations, is urging their members to contact legislators to voice concerns. They sent out an email blast today stating that the NECN, “holds the position that the the Columbia River Crossing project is a costly, risky highway mega-project that would be bad for our neighborhoods and for all Oregonians… We need to keep up the pressure.” (Read more about NECN’s position.)

Monday’s hearing will also likely be the first time we hear from the newly formed “bipartisan coalition” against the project that includes such diverse interests as the Coalition for a Livable Future and the Cascade Policy Institute.

Dan Kaufman, a citizen activist who’s been working to thwart the project for years, shared with us that, “This could be our last chance and a huge turnout could be the only thing to stop it. This could be it.”

While the politics of the CRC still look good for project backers here in Oregon, the picture just keeps getting worse in Washington. The Willamette Week reported today that a Washington state rep wants a re-design. Regardless of the merits of that lawmakers request, it looks increasingly unlikely that Washington will vote in support of the project during this year’s legislative session. Whether that fact impacts the urgency Oregon lawmakers feel around HB 2800 remains to be seen.

The hearing will take place Monday (2/18) at 3:00 pm in front of a 16-member House Joint Committee on the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project. I plan to attend so stay tuned for more coverage.

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