Esplanade closure begins February 1st

As CRC rumbles forward, major advocacy groups sit on the sidelines

Posted by on February 28th, 2013 at 11:34 am

“I heard from a number of people who have expressed concerns about their [legislative] priorities if they were to speak against the bill.”
— Mara Gross, interim director of Coalition for a Livable Future

The Columbia River Crossing project took a big step forward when HB 2800 easily passed the Oregon House this week. But while the project has made a lot of noise lately, major environmental and transportation advocacy groups have stayed quiet.

The bill will likely be voted on by the Senate next week (March 4th) and then Governor Kitzhaber is expected to sign it into law (unless he gets nostalgic and has a change of heart).

As this snowball has gathered size and speed, I have become intrigued by the deafening silence about it from our region’s major environmental, land-use, and transportation advocacy groups. Groups like the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Oregon Environmental Council, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, the relatively small opposition has been led by volunteer grassroots activists with little to no budget and a few organizations pulled together by Coalition for a Livable Future, an umbrella group that has just two policy-related staff. At a house party on Tuesday hosted by CLF and the Facebook-based group Shut Down the CRC, they celebrated a paltry $1,000 fundraising goal to help pay someone to work the halls of Salem to stop the bill.

Not a priority.
(Graphic: CRC Urban Design Advisory Group)

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a group with 5,000 members and 14 full-time paid staff, says they don’t support HB 2800; but they’re not working to stop it. The last time the BTA urged action against the CRC was in 2011. Since then, they have been quiet about the project.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) is arguably the largest and most powerful environmental non-profit in Oregon with seven paid staffers and 5,400 members statewide. They’ve been all but silent about the CRC since 2010.

1000 Friends of Oregon, with its 5,000 members and 10 paid staff specializing in land-use issues, has not worked to oppose the project since 2011.

The Oregon Environmental Council has 18 paid staff members and over 13,000 dues-paying members. A search for “Columbia River Crossing” on their website comes up empty.

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is the nation’s largest at 7,500 members. There is no mention of HB 2800 on their website and the last time they raised concerns about the CRC project was in 2008 (links to PDF).

These groups (and others) could form a formidable front against the powerful lobbyists and political insiders pushing for the project. Each one of them on their own has large member databases and deep connections in Salem. Just imagine what they could do if they came together with their millions of dollars in annual revenue and nearly 30,000 paying members.

Would their advocacy be enough to sway votes in Salem? Why aren’t they doing more to oppose HB 2800, which sets in motion a mega-project that will have vast financial, infrastructural, and environmental consequences? Those questions have been on my mind for a long time. With new momentum for the CRC via HB 2800, I felt it was time to try and find some answers.

Mara Gross of Coalition for a Livable
Future (in 2008).
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Looming in the background of my work on this story were accounts from several sources that leadership of the Oregon House and Senate have muzzled dissent to HB 2800. Both freshman legislators and advocacy leaders, sources say, have been told directly that if they oppose HB 2800, they will pay for it. For lawmakers, that could mean withholding future campaign funding and support from party leaders; and for advocates, that could mean their current legislative agenda would not move forward.

When asked why she thinks many major advocacy organizations have not come out to publicly oppose HB 2800, Mara Gross, the interim director of Coalition for a Livable Future said, “I heard from a number of people who have expressed concerns about their [legislative] priorities [if they were to speak against the bill].” Another source, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “There are a couple groups that have been told explicitly that their priorities will be on the chopping block if they oppose the CRC.”

In that environment, it’s not hard to see why some groups might be hesitant to speak out.

BTA Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky told a reporter last year that “His group and others are planning a full-court press to try to derail the CRC by pushing for a referendum on the funding measure expected in Oregon’s 2013 legislative session.” Here we are in the 2013 session and the BTA is not working against that funding measure at all. When asked about their silence on HB 2800, Kransky confirmed that although they do not support the bill, they are also not devoting any resources to stop it. “Our legislative agenda,” Kransky wrote via email, “is based on our strategic plan and is focused on safety for all users of the roadway by; reducing neighborhood street speeds, improving traffic safety cameras, and dedicating funding for bicycle projects.”

Kranksy added that the BTA is, “Faced with strategic choices on where to put our resources” and pointed me to their current policy statement on the project (links to PDF). That statement, dated January 2011, doesn’t oppose the project. Instead, it outlines a list of design goals it must reach in order to get the BTA’s support.

“My perspective… is that we didn’t do a great job of movement building over the course of the last two to three years and we probably should have been doing that… It’s embarrassing.”
— Jason Miner, executive director 1000 Friends of Oregon

The leader of the OLCV, Doug Moore, said his group hasn’t taken a position on HB 2800. Ground zero for the OLCV’s political action is their “Salem Watch” newsletter distributed through the 40-member Oregon Conservation Network. The newsletter tracks legislative bills and states the OCN’s position on each. The February 18th newsletter — which came out the same day as HB 2800 got its first of two hearings in front of a joint legislative committee — listed four bills on the organization’s “Hotlist.” HB 2800 wasn’t one of them. However, it was listed as one of five bills under the heading, “On our Radar.” The OCN position on the bill was stated as, “Watching carefully.”

When asked why his group hasn’t done anything to oppose HB 2800, Moore said it just hasn’t “become the focus” of the OCN community. This was a recurring theme in my research for this story. There’s a sense that for some reason, Oregon’s many environmental activists and advocacy groups have never been able to coalesce around CRC opposition. Moore said he’s only been at the organization over a year so he doesn’t have the perspective to understand why they aren’t doing more to oppose it. Moore said that while his group isn’t officially taking action, he has personally expressed concerns about how the project would “reduce investment in alternative forms of transportation.”

Two years ago, 1000 Friends of Oregon was actively raising questions about the CRC and pushing for an alternative plan. Their former leader Bob Stacey, now a Metro councilor, remains an outspoken critic of the project. On February 18th he testified against HB 2800 in Salem, urging legislators to reject the bill. But Stacey’s former organization has been silent about the project since 2011. I spoke to their current executive director Jason Miner yesterday. “My perspective at this point,” he shared, “is that we didn’t do a great job of movement building over the course of the last two to three years and we probably should have been doing that.”

Miner had hoped that movement would rally around an alternative design proposal for the project. “We oppose the big bridge and the highway widening,” he said. The main focus of their advocacy was to put out a different vision, which was something Miner believed “There could have been a coalition behind.”

Two years ago, 1000 Friends was in talks to unite with other groups including the Coalition for a Livable Future, but that effort never materialized. “I think the community was fractured over the years… We worked on it and we didn’t come up with a single coherent voice.” Looking back, Miner feels like the failure to agree to an opposition strategy is “embarrassing.”

Like other groups, Miner said 1000 Friends is opposed to HB 2800. If they’re opposed, I asked, are they taking any public stance against it? After a long pause, Miner said, “No. I can’t think of any active organizing that I’m aware that we are doing.” Similar to the BTA, Miner said 1000 Friends simply hasn’t been in the lead in opposing the CRC and that they have other priorities. He also said they’ve worked behind the scenes to support the Northeast Coalition of Neighbors in their lawsuit against the project.

While Miner said that while 1000 Friends hasn’t gotten any threats from Salem power brokers about opposing HB 2800, he believes, “That conversation is going on out there.” He’s heard legislators describe being pressured for support for the bill from Speaker Kotek’s office. “They’ve said; ‘This is important to the speaker.'” Having the Speaker of the House push legislative priorities is a standard practice. I have no proof that that pressure went above and beyond the usual.

For citizen activists like Scott Lieuallen, who views the CRC as a “monstrosity,” the silence from these groups is notable. Lieuallen is a member, former staffer, and uber-volunteer for the BTA. He says he’s confused as to why the BTA doesn’t take a stronger stance against HB 2800. “I’m disappointed. I don’t know why that is. Maybe they have some good reason for not doing it. What I do know, is that I don’t see them taking a stand. I wish I could tell you why. I wish they would.”

Would action by the likes of the BTA, OLCV, Sierra Club, and 1000 Friends of Oregon have made a difference? “If they’d taken a lead,” said Noecker, “I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today. They ask for people’s money, then they sit on the sidelines while activists no money at all have done all the real work against the CRC. This is a serious breach of trust.”

In speaking with advocacy leaders, I’ve heard many excuses for not opposing HB 2800: a lack of resources; a lack of urgency from their members; a lack of agreement on exactly how to oppose it (“There’s so many things to not like about the project, how do you begin to unify around this thing?” is how one person put it); a sense that there’s a better chance to kill the project in Washington; conflicting stances on the project from board members (BTA board member Val Hoyle is an Oregon State Rep who voted in favor of the bill), and so on. The one that stood out to me was a sense that the CRC is so big and the political power behind it is so strong, that resistance is futile.

Meanwhile, grassroots advocates, with their small numbers, small budgets, and limited political clout, have not given up. CLF and Shut Down the CRC have three more house parties planned in March. They’re targeting Oregon Senators with phone calls, urging them to vote no, and making as much noise about the project as they can. They have to be loud to get noticed — and to make up for the silence of the major advocacy players who continue to sit on the sidelines.

For activists like Scott Lieuallen, that’s unfortunate. “When does anyone break ranks,” he wonders, “and point out that the emperor has no clothes?”

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  • dwainedibbly February 28, 2013 at 11:42 am


    I think the next time any of these groups wants my money, I’m going to sit on the sidelines, too. Mrs Dibbly is canceling memberships as I write this…

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  • GlowBoy February 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Jonathan, thank you for continuing to cover this mess, especially since other advocacy groups, as well as the media, seem afraid to touch it. AND thank you for covering the fact that others aren’t touching it! You’re performing a really valuable public service.

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  • Nick February 28, 2013 at 11:44 am

    This just makes me feel sick and disillusioned.

    I sure won’t be voting for Tina Kotek again.

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  • Schrauf February 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Some of these groups realize that it is too late in Oregon, and it has been for a long time. The fight is in Washington – between the dismal budget picture and lack of support in Clark County for anything with light rail or tolls, that is what will stop the current version of the CRC.

    Focus on breaking the weakest link in the chain.

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    • Jacob February 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Pardon my french, but bullsh*t. It was not too late 2 years ago, and they were silent on the issue then.

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    • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

      I’m sorry, but that’s a weak argument. You take the fight where it is at the moment, and working locally first is a really good way to get people educated and fired up for the fight at the national level.

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    • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Those opposing the CRC in Washington are right wing anti-transit scumbags who want to cut off an important light rail expansion. When it comes to mean-spirited and myopic, they are at the top of the list.

      Aligning with folks like that and you’ll get their slime all over you.

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      • Nicholas Caleb February 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

        Politics as a team sport clearly isn’t working. The few goodies this project would offer is nothing compared to the problems it would cause (more sprawl, more CO2, a necessary commitment to future freeway expansion, funds taken away from potential sustainability projects or bridge repair).

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        • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

          Sorry, but Portland can’t demand that I-5, a highway under federal jurisdiction, be used to throttle traffic because it doesn’t like sprawl.

          The Obama Administration specifically made expansion of the I-5 crossing a priority. It wants expanded capacity and is not going to take seriously people in Oregon who don’t want to build because they resent Vancouver.

          I don’t take the CRC opponents seriously because they have no coherent alternative to it. They would cheer if the current bridge collapsed and ruined the economies on both sides of the river.

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          • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm

            CRC proponents are deliberately ignoring the cheaper, greener Common Sense Alternative because it won’t make as much money for contractors. They’d rather build the biggest, costliest project possible out of sheer greed.

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            • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm

              And the people pushing the Common Sense Alternative are ignoring that the whole thing is a no-go from the start. The BNSF bridge privately held, and they’ll never agree to shutting down their West Coast rail corridor.

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              • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

                I noticed that flaw when I saw the video as well. So, if this rail link is so critical to west coast freight and passenger rail movement (and it is), build the new rail/freight truck bridge down stream, and then modify the lift span on the BNSF bridge. The BNSF bridge is old than both of the existing I-5 spans. Shouldn’t we be replacing it first?

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              • Alan 1.0 February 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm

                The BNSF bridge privately held, and they’ll never agree to shutting down their West Coast rail corridor.

                They’re business people, they’ll agree if the terms are right. Who wouldn’t want to replace that old, imperiled, single-track bridge with a shiny, seismically stable, multi-line one if the price is right?

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              • Anandakos March 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm

                The BNSF bridge is double track its entire length.

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              • Alan 1.0 March 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm

                Oh thanks, so it is. But BNSF would still be interested in an offer to improve, replace or add another structure, if the terms were right.

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              • Paul Cone March 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

                Also it seems like if the Obama Administration is really interested in improving inter-city passenger rail, like they pushed last term, they’d welcome an opportunity to improve the rail crossing.

                (I write this from the Amtrak Cascades, heading north. We were delayed leaving Oregon 15 minutes because the BNSF bridge over the Columbia was open.)

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          • Nicholas Caleb February 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm

            Common Sense Alternative – dont’ be obtuse

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          • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

            So, say this moves forward, and the CRC is built. The bottleneck at the river is now removed, but the exact same lane capacity exists through the rest of the city of Portland. Do we just step aside and let the federal government condemn properties in North, Central, and Southwest Portland so they can expand those sections to 10 lanes? Wake up. You can’t build your way out of congestion. Show me a city that has been able to do that.

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          • Alan 1.0 February 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

            Sorry, but Portland can’t demand that I-5, a highway under federal jurisdiction, be used to throttle traffic because it doesn’t like sprawl.

            “Demand” isn’t how the political process works in this country. Portland, as a city affected by the CRC, certainly can express its concerns and desires, as can individuals and organizations. They can each lobby for what they want. It surprises me how little the Oregon legislature has cared about citizen opinions in the largest and by far most important city in the state, as well as about taxpayers throughout the state. I have a feeling voters may remember that.

            Suburban sprawl is but one of several major point against the CRC, and it should concern the Feds as well as Portlanders. Gasoline isn’t going to sustain suburbs for a whole lot longer and supporting suburban infrastructure (and all the economies that go along with it, such as getting labor to the business place) is already becoming a national defense issue.

            The Obama Administration specifically made expansion of the I-5 crossing a priority. It wants expanded capacity and is not going to take seriously people in Oregon who don’t want to build because they resent Vancouver.

            The current administration is looking for “shovel ready” projects for economic stimulus. That’s all well and good, I think those economics are fine, but let’s make wise long-term investments with those tax dollars at the same time. If it’s just about I-5 freeway travel, re-number 205, add a lane if needed, and the interstate transpo problem is solved.

            I don’t take the CRC opponents seriously because they have no coherent alternative to it. They would cheer if the current bridge collapsed and ruined the economies on both sides of the river.

            I certainly would not cheer. I’ve been voicing concern over seismic risk of our bridges for years. That includes not putting all of our bridge-eggs in one basket. Spread the funds out to make I-5, I-205, the Longview bridge, and several Willamette bridges seismically sound, too, for the same money. Meanwhile, both downtown Vancouver and the North Portland Industrial/Hayden Island regions will be badly impacted by the monster freeway being rammed through them.

            You, Todd, have expressed displeasure with the CSA, and that’s fine, it’s your right to do so. But it’s just a quick ‘n’ dirty planning exercise by one small local architect. It never received review by the CRC committee despite their 9-figure budget, they never offered to help flesh it out to a real proposal which could be competitively compared to CRC, and the CRC committee never offered any other proposals for comparison. They offered you and me, the taxpayers, one option and we’d better like it.

            I don’t know about you, but I gag on offers like that.

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      • JE February 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

        I didn’t check the political affiliations of the paramedics who answered my 911 call. I was grateful they came and helped.
        If right wing anti-transit mean-spirited and myopic scumbags are the only ones who will stop this thing, then thank God for them.

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      • Alan 1.0 February 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm

        Those opposing the CRC in Washington are right wing anti-transit scumbags who want to cut off an important light rail expansion. When it comes to mean-spirited and myopic, they are at the top of the list.

        We clearly have not met.

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  • Jacob February 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Jules Kopel Bailey is sitting in the most progressive seat in our state’s legislature, and he is supposedly an environmentalist, even gettinga wards from OLCV. This is a joke. Jules needs to be primaried by a real progressive, and OLCV, 1000 friends et al, need to grow some courage. They will never see another check from me again.

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  • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I finally renewed my BTA membership this year, but I won’t again. I won’t be giving money or time to any of these groups if they don’t have the foresight and stones to fight against what could be the largest environmentally detrimental thing to happen to my neighborhood in years. I’m giving my money to the NRDC.

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    • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Why not give money to the Coalition for a Livable Future since they are the one group that has been fighting this thing consistently for over a decade? The fact that they have to struggle to raise a $1000 tells you something about how little traction that opposition got from the rest of the community.

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      • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        Excellent point. I will.

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      • Mara Gross March 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

        I appreciate that Coalition for a Livable Future is getting props for being out front on this (and I certainly appreciate donations). But I’m concerned about conversations that tear down our partners. CLF is made up of a broad coalition that supported us taking a strong position for a better solution than the current plan for CRC. Some of the groups discussed in this story have been partners on CRC directly, and all are important partners in the broader work to address the climate crisis, expand transportation options, protect farm and forest land, move toward social justice, etc.

        It’s essential to continue to build the coalition of groups and individuals working for a better place to live, even when there are disagreements on strategy or priority. I hope the bulk of people’s energy remains focused outward to fighting for a just and sustainable community.

        Mara Gross
        Interim Director, CLF

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        • Paul Cone March 3, 2013 at 10:55 am

          Mara, I appreciate that, but the coalition also gets strength from strong backing from its members. I was in Salem at the Joint Committee hearing and that backing did not seem apparent.

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        • Ross Williams March 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

          Mara makes my point about the circular firing squad a lot more succinctly. It does no good to point fingers and blame other people and organizations for not doing enough.

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          • 9watts March 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

            “It does no good to point fingers and blame other people and organizations for not doing enough.”

            I agree it is probably not the most constructive thing to do, but given that we do have a well-known organization with the words bicycle and transportation in the title in this state/town, how would you propose registering a collective sense of dismay that they (for instance) have not seen fit to enter the ring, or worse, have perhaps thrown their gloves away?
            It is never too late to knock the stuffing out of a terrible idea!

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            • Ross Williams March 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm

              My answer is you don’t “express dismay”, you organize to get those organizations on board. Are you trying to stop the CRC or complain about it? Frankly, we have all spent too much time complaining about how terrible this project is and not enough time building a coalition that can defeat it. While we were treating this as a discussion on its merits, McCaig and company were treating it as a political campaign. Guess who is winning?

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  • Justin February 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Nice research, Jonathan. This sure reads differently than the coverage of the Mount Hood Freeway struggle.

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  • Allan February 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Just remember that you can funnel your donations to organizations that actually oppose the project

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  • Nicholas Caleb February 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Excellent journalism coming out of Bike Portland in the last few weeks. Thanks for telling it like it is, Jonathan. We’re never going to win these environmental battles if we don’t point fingers at the people are too buddy-buddy with the political system to take the necessary measures to succeed.

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  • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for helping name names, Jonathan. It’s time for the environmental groups lying down for the CRC to start feeling the pain.

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  • Carl February 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    What might be most useful at this point is a clear, point-by-point explanation of Why People Who Ride Bikes Should Oppose the CRC.

    Part of the problem is that the badness of the project is in the details — on it’s surface it’s just an expensive bridge, so there’s little to rally cyclists or pedestrians around, which makes it difficult to build an active opposition. This is, as Jonathan pointed out earlier, entirely intentional on the part of CRC backers.

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    • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      That’s a pretty humorous excuse. If a 12 lane freeway expansion doesn’t scare the hell out of you as an Oregonian, a ‘list for cyclists’ probably won’t make much difference.

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      • davemess February 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm

        But look on the very basic surface of the issue. As a cyclist or someone who likes/wants transit. This project is supposedly giving you way better bike access to vancouver and a light rail line that runs over the river. So yes there are some potential good things in it, and if you ask most people (even in Portland) do you want less traffic on I-5 at the bridge, do you want better bike paths over the river, do you want MAX over the river? They will answer “yes” on all three. So maybe redirecting the narrative a bit, and explaining why there are a lot of negatives of this project for the general public, who aren’t researching this stuff, or frankly paying very close attention would be really valuable.
        you have to play to your audience and not continue to just stand on a chair screaming at the top your lungs.

        (and I am against CRC at this point)

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        • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

          “Better bike access” next to a 12 lane mega-freeway that will increase pollution and greenhouse gases by 32% in our region while robbing upwards of $10 billion dollars from other desperately needed infrastructure projects? Yeah, if that’s a selling point cyclists are attracted to, that’s just plain sad.

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          • davemess March 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

            Hart those are the exact type of things that people need to know. But many do not. I’m not sure why you are conceivably getting upset at people agreeing that these truths need to be elucidated a little more for the general public (cyclists included). Most people don’t know how big it will be. They’ve just ridden their bike across the current bridge, realized how dismal it really is, and said, “hey a better bike path would be great”. People in general are very short-sited and don’t see multifaceted mega-projects like this very rationally.

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        • Paul in the 'couve February 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm

          I agree to some extent. Most people, CRC supporter or objector, in Clark County seem pretty uninformed and apathetic about the issues. The CRC team is doing a great job of not releasing info or pictures that show how much this project is going to impact the surrounding areas. When people start to SEE what this project is really going to be the objections will erupt.

          I’d like some Numbers that just aren’t really available (partly because the CRC team is deliberately making it difficult to obtain them). How big are the cloverleaves and onramp areas going to be at Mill Plain and Hwy 14 with the 116 Foot height – no picture or #s easy to locate but I know it means taking down 3 buildings that aren’t in the outdated 5 year old info and pictures. What is the total surface area covered by the new project vs. current. I’m guessing that would probably be a 100% increase or at least twice the current foot print.

          The biggest thing to me is showing people the shadow this is literally going to cast on Vancouver, the Fort Vancouver Reserve and Hayden Island.

          Also, cost, but I think most people at this point are just shrugging and figuring a) it is federal money and b) that’s the way things go.

          For me, I think about how many project we could do and what we could accomplish in the region with each state kicking in $500 million. $1 Billion spent wisely could accomplish a lot.

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          • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm

            I spoke with one of my Vancouver friends about the tolls, and he was absolutely convinced that they could build the project without tolling it. Unbelievable…

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            • Paul in the 'couve February 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

              Yep, amount of ignorance of basic information and willful denial of reality is unbelievable.

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              • Alan March 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

                Not surprising — the Tea Party has built a large and powerful movement based just that ignorance and willful denial. We’be become a “don’t know and don’t want to know” nation.

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          • Alan 1.0 February 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

            Speaking of the clearance* and height issues on the CRC bridge, I keep wondering about a new, low bridge with an opening span of some sort. Yes, an exception would have to be made to Interstate Hwy policy for it, but that should be possible especially with 205 nearby (see “re-number”). It would take care not only of Coast Guard approval and Vancouver Shipyard concerns, but also FAA clearance for Pearson Field. It would help bike/ped travel due to less climbing and reduce rise for egress ramps, and therefore less surface area. It would minimize the freeway’s profile and visual impact in the Vancouver core, not needing the long ramp-up distance to the north. The new bridge could still be high enough for common barge traffic, eliminating >90% of span lifts (CSA estimate).

            I guess that’s just another of the myriad alternatives that the CRC Committee chose to ignore?

            *116 feet is silly when the 205 bridge is 144…I-5 should have at least the clearance of 205

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    • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      Another point is that CRC is going to suck up all the available transportation funds. They’ve already said that the first two years of bond payments will eat up all the state STIP funds, which is a key source of funding for multi-modal projects statewide.

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    • Rol February 28, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Even better would be a point-by-point list of reasons why people who DON’T bike much should oppose the CRC. Since cyclists are a minority.

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      • Carl March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

        Well, yeah, there are lots of reasons for lots of different people to oppose it. I was speaking with this particular site’s audience in mind. If you want to convince people, speak to them about the things they already care about.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson February 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    the power of the internet for anyone to have a voice and communicate is a pretty new thing and I think a lof of these advocacy groups have struggled with how to interact with these newly empowered, informed, and passionate advocates. In this case it seems like the big groups have said, “these guys are already doing it so I’ll stay out”. But even though they are passionate they lack the political connections. I hope that someday these groups will learn to see facebook groups and house parties not as something working against them or a clear alternative to the more traditional non-profit advocacy group but as something that can supplement their work. That is where the real power of the future is.

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  • Marid February 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    If you really want to find out why these groups don’t oppose the bridge you should do a real scientific public opinion poll. I tried to search for such data, but didn’t find one. I would be surprised if private polling has not been done. Say, for example, that 75% of the public quietly supports the CRC. Factor in the amount of money behind the projects supports. Then you know why the project is moving. The opposition has no chance.

    I’m a supporter of the CRC and an environmentalist and an off and on BTA supporter. One does not preclude the other.

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    • Jacob February 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      What are you talking about?

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      • Marid February 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

        I’m talking about how politics works. If you want to fight effectively, you need data. Saying the bridge is a ‘monstrosity’ or that it will ‘destroy’ Clark county or that it is a ‘boondoggle’ is nothing but emotion. These words have no meaning anymore. The conservatives have tossed these words around for years and no one believes the anymore. Obama is still president and the country still exists. If you want to win you need a real argument. One that factors in the economy, the projected population growth of the region, national defense, and everything else that a project of this size must consider. I’m challenging you to convince me.

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    • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      “I’m a supporter of the CRC and an environmentalist”

      vehicle emissions account for ~27% of US greenhouse gas emissions.

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      • Marid February 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

        So do you suggest everyone stop driving? You don’t really believe that. The world is not black and white. Presently political dialog is one of extremes. ‘You’re with us or against us.’ Does it matter that my wife and I have one hybrid car that we drive for 6,000 miles per year? That I ride to work by bicycle every day rain or shine? Of course you don’t know that, but lash out with some singular piece of unsourced data.

        The region’s economy depends on a solid transportation network. This is an economy transitioning from forestry, fisheries, and other natural resource extraction industries. To keep our high tech industry competitive we need a strong transportation network. The bridge is a piece of vital infrastructure. With strong high tech jobs we have a strong voice for protecting the forests and wildlife. Everything is interconnected. Take the light rail away for the bridge and my interest wanes.

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        • Matt F February 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm

          How does widening a freeway keep our high tech industry competitive? They don’t seem related at all.

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          • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm


            “Intel, a major Portland employer, has reported that it has missed deliveries because of traffic congestion, thereby negatively affecting production lines worldwide.”

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            • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm

              I hate to break it to you, but Intel will only be able to save a minute or two once the CRC is built. There will be just as much congestion on HWY 26, and even more on I-5 through North Portland once the project is completed. If they were smart, they would ship during non-commuting hours, as my company does. Oh, and maybe they could make it easier for their employees to bike or take transit to work, as they are a big part of the congestion problems on Hwy 26…

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            • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm

              Also, that website is published by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and includes no citations.


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            • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

              I’m not saying I agree with it — I’m just saying what the pro-CRC arguments are. If you’ve been following my comments you’ll know that I am very anti-CRC.

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        • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

          “So do you suggest everyone stop driving?”

          I would suggest that people should drive less. I am also certain that they *WILL* drive less. Therefore, the growth projections at the heart of this proposed bridge are deeply flawed.

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        • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm
          • Marid February 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm

            Yes, we could also do more good by all turning vegetarian and stoping the production and eating of animals. As a vegetarian for 20+ years I can tell you that telling people to give up meat is a non-starter. With luck and health arguments we can reduce cattle production. I hope that you are doing your part and joining the future that is vegetarian.


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            • Dan Kaufman February 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm

              Kudos to you for going vegetarian, which is an excellent way to reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

              Remember, Marid we are not just fighting against climate change and air pollution we are fighting for livable streets and communities.

              We are fighting for social justice and democracy. The CRC project flies in the face of all of that. PS Road building also requires massive amounts of CO2 emissions air and water pollution – may or may not be factored into your UN report. A smarter project would use far less pavement and reap greater rewards in terms of congestion and pollution. We can come up with better solutions than CRC… we must! If we dump billions into this counter-productive project our future options to improve congestion, reduce pollution, and make our streets more livable streets will be hindered by lack of available funds.

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            • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm

              its great to hear that you are also long-term veg*n. since i also have a better half who drives a prius we apparently have a lot in common.


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        • 9watts February 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm

          “The region’s economy depends on a solid transportation network.”
          Screw the economy and the transportation network. Without a habitable planet we don’t need and won’t enjoy either. The CRC is a great way to commit money materials, energy, and a lot of other scarce things to something that won’t serve anyone and will destroy a lot of what we already have. This is not how you plan for a very different future that is looming. This is how you make a desperate and myopic attempt to revive Eisenhower’s spirit.

          Hurray for Jonathan’s continued coverage of this, and phooey on all those organizations sitting on their hands.

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          • Help February 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm

            “Screw the economy and the transportation network.”

            Well that’s the winning argument we’ve all been looking for.

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            • 9watts February 28, 2013 at 9:19 pm

              I don’t suppose you bothered to read the next sentence.

              There is a time for appealing to the public, conducting focus groups on messaging, and there is a time to call a spade a spade. You can’t eat your car, or the parking garage, or huge slabs of concrete. Sometimes enough is enough.

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  • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    It reads differently than the mythology of the Mount Hood freeway. By the end a lot of people were on board and they all claim part of the credit for its successful defeat. My understanding of that history is a little different. Like this project, the opposition was from a small number of activists who built a movement that brought all those other groups on board.

    Most of the groups listed here at some point took on the CRC with little or no success. I suspect the honest answer from all of them would be that they decided this isn’t a winnable fight. Complaining about that judgment won’t stop the bridge, someone has to show them they are wrong. Until there is a strategy that has some chance of success, it would be foolish for these organizations to pull resources away from other important work for a lost cause.

    Its not enough to say “It’s Important!”, you also have to say “We can win!” in a credible way.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      I don’t agree with your analysis Ross. I think the “it’s not winnable” excuse is there, but there are many other factors at play. Also, I would argue that the reason it appears to be unwinnable is because groups like this have been quiet for so long. The reason this monstrosity exists is in large part because, when given the chance to vote on it, people like Mayor Sam Adams and even the Metro Council said “Yes!” You could blame them, but you should also blame the fact that those leaders had no political breathing room to say no “No!” because they did not see any organized community opposition — the type of opposition that these large groups could easily muster if they’d chosen to.

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      • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm

        Jonathon –

        You would be wrong. The reason it isn’t winnable is that lots of people thought it would self-destruct. The reason it isn’t winnable is lots of people are complaining, but they aren’t putting their money, time and energy where their mouths are.

        And tell Rex Burkholder that everyone was silent on this issue. He lost his race for Metro Exec largely because he made himself a big advocate for this project. Tell Bob Stacey that he and 1000 Friends were silent on the issue. Tell CLF that they have been silent on the issue. Lots of people were working on this issue before you even heard of it. There are plenty of people who have made sacrifices and gotten rolled over by this juggernaut. To suggest they failed from lack of effort is naive, stupid and insulting.

        Blogging doesn’t change the world.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm


          I think you’ve misunderstood me. This is a complicated discussion that might be tough to have electronically. I’m just saying if there was more broad-based and organized community opposition to this thing several years ago when key votes were made in its favor, perhaps those votes would have gone differently.

          Thanks for the comments.

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          • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

            And what I saying Jonathon is that there was broad based opposition by most of those groups and it was unsuccessful. Where were you? You are doing a story about the last step in a process that has been going on for almost 15 years and criticizing groups for not banging their heads against the wall harder.

            You are frustrated. So you organize a circular firing squad. Well join the circle. If you would have joined efforts earlier to inform people about the CRC, maybe this thing wouldn’t have reached this point. Where were you?

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            • Paul in the 'couve February 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

              We are not “at the last step of this process.” We are really only barely at step 2 maybe. The project is at about a 30% design (design is nowhere near final), the Coast Guard hasn’t signed off, not one funding source has reached final approval (only the Oregon House has passed – not the senate). Even IF OR, WA and the US-DOT all get funding on board there is still a long process of finalizing design and the possibility of lawsuits and cost over runs exploding before even ground breaking ceremony.

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              • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

                Paul –

                You are right. Thankfully, it isn’t the last step in the process of getting the CRC built, its only the last step in the local approval process. There are still some handles to stop it. But this vote in the legislature wasn’t one of them and no amount of lobbying by environmental groups was going to change the outcome.

                What is needed now is a strategy that can win. Its pretty clear CLF is providing whatever leadership there is on the issue. Most of the groups Jonathon has criticized are members of CLF. Some energy and support directed at supporting their efforts might bring some results.

                My guess is the Coast Guard will get rolled if this is pitched as an economic stimulus project that has bipartisan support.

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              • Paul in the 'couve February 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

                I agree. The Obama admin is desperate for “shovel ready projects” that get construction equipment and operators back to work. The Coast Guard will permit the 116Ft wether it likes it or not. If WA is able to pass any DOT funding this year at all the CRC will probably be included. Just as in OR it appears likely that all the advocacy groups have been scared or bought off to stay out of the CRC issue. The two hopes in WA is the anti-tax conservatives especially from the eastern side of the state who may insist on blocking DOT funding over the cost overruns on Seattle projects and the emerging facts of mis-management and smoke screening on the Hwy 99 tunnel and the SR 520 bridge project. It may be that DOT loses so much credibility that they just can’t get the votes for any new projects. And of course the active conservative opposition to light rail in Vancouver. Then there is always the sequester.

                In short, I think this thing is wired, but there is a maybe 30% shot that circumstances will conspire to block it from getting further either in WA or at the Fed level.

                After that will come lawsuits. Downtown businesses are being courted to join a lawsuit against light rail. A group is petitioning and looking for a lawsuit on the preserving the “Historic Lucky Lager Warehouse.” The CRC lowballed the estimated losses for businesses up stream, potential lawsuit there. I really believe that there will be several lawsuits on Hayden Island when the details start to get out and probably a few more from Downtown Vancouver and regarding the historic preserve.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm


              I was there. I have been following this story since 2006 or so. I have posted many many articles about it. I have been to rallies and bike rides and have supported activists and have talked to dozens of people about it. The fact remains that there was never a coordinated community opposition to this project. If there was, we would not be here today and I would not been able to write this story. Yes, people have opposed the project in many ways over the years, but no major advocacy group has spearheaded a meaningful and lasting opposition that was strong enough to derail this thing.

              Thanks again for your comments.

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              • Jim Labbe March 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

                Ross, easy guy. Jonathan has been doing a bang up job covering the CRC over the years especially at the critical junctures like right now. BTW. How is Minneasota? We miss having you kicking ass with us her in Portland.


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        • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

          To excuse people who won’t speak out against the CRC for fear of being ‘rolled’ shows how self-serving and short-sighted these silent individuals are. They need to be called out for their compliance with the forces pushing this 12 lane disaster. Again, Jonathan deserves thanks for saying what the rest of our city has been afraid to speak aloud publicly.

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        • Alan March 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm

          Well, any sensible person looking at this project a year or two ago would figure it was going to self-destruct. Its funding was a house of cards, its traffic projections were becoming ridiculously overstated with every passing month, it flys in the face of our imperative need to reduce carbon emissions, its design is clearly a fraudulent attempt to kickstart major freeway expansion throughout Portland (a notoriously anti-freeway expansion city), its design is a glorified freeway overpass when people really wanted a beautiful gateway bridge, its light rail component was heavily opposed by Vancouver residents for reasons that are unpleasant and not worth going into here, its bicycle accomodation is a mini-bridge slung under the main bridge and will have all the attraction of driving on the lower deck of the Fremont bridge, its tolling proposal is a non-starter in Vancouver (and wait until you hear the howls about having a toll payment identifier on your vehicle). Sure sounds like a candidate for self-destruction to me — it still might self-destruct — let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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      • Randall Sewell February 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

        To some degree, I’d agree with the above poster. The people opposing the project don’t stand to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars. No one is going to get rich by stopping the CRC. The people pushing it forward DO stand to get rich. We have groups opposing it that are struggling to raise $1000. They have full-time, highly-paid lobbyists, and millions to spend on ad-campaigns.

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        • Dan Kaufman February 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

          You are right, Randall. No one can make real money fighting the CRC. And that’s the same reason active transportation will never be funded in any significant way and why we can not protect our environment. There is just no real money in it.

          Our government runs on money and is thoroughly corrupted by it. That is why there is an emergency provision CRC HB2800 that declares the act an emergency and prevents a referendum from taking place and that is why this the bill is not passing through the ways and means committee as any other legislation above $50,000 would.

          We must change the paradigm and remind our advocacy groups that it’s not just the little battles. It’s much bigger than that.

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  • bike-max-bike February 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Apathy, for want of return$, in the face of a great opportunity to be true to their missions certainly leaves egg (concrete?) on the face of Oregon’s once-great environmental nonprofits.

    Nonprofits…oh yeah, it doesn’t have to be about the money every time.

    So much helplessness, so much torpor, so much complicity.

    Wow. Just wow.

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  • michael downes February 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Kudos Jonathon! Your reporting on this subject has been stellar…..

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  • Timur Ender February 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    WELL DONE JONATHAN!! This needed to be said. Don’t get distracted by the heat you get from this story. Well behaved people seldom make history.

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  • RH February 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Maybe we can march and put some huge banners on the Failing St Bridge or Skidmore Overpass that say ‘NO CRC’….that could maybe get some media coverage….a lot of people on I5 would see the banners too.

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    • televod February 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      You mean…the folks who drive I-5 every day and likely see the CRC as a huge improvement? I know that’s a bit of a generalization, but if the stereotypical interstate commuter opposes the project, I’d wager that it’s due to anything other than environmental / sprawl concerns.

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      • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm

        Perhaps the signs should go up on I-84 and I-205, then?


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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin February 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Powerful Journalism! It takes a lot of courage to stand up for whats right.

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  • patrickz February 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve punched the Recommended button on a few comments about Jonathan’s reporting being outstanding, but I just want to send my 2 pennies’ worth. What a truly FINE job of bringing the issue to light!

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    • Andyc of Linnton February 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      I second this.

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  • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Perhaps anti-CRC activists can run for BTA board positions. You would get my vote.

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    • weastsider February 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      The candidates BTA board are selected by the existing board. Don’t recall there every being any more candidates than the number of seats.

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      • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

        you are correct. according to bta bylaws it looks like only the board can select other candidates. this is fundamentally undemocratic. i’ve been apathetic about the bta for some time but the fact that members have absolutely no input into governance is incredibly disappointing.

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  • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    There would be more opposition to the CRC, both in advocacy groups and in the legislature, if there were a coherent alternative that had support from the three major stakeholders (Oregon, Washington, and the feds). Currently, there is no alternative that meets this criterion.

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    • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Untrue. There is most definitely a well planned alternative:

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      • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm

        No, the “Common Sense Alternative is not well thought out, nor is it an alternative that all stakeholders agree upon.

        There’s a myriad of problems with it, notably the railroad bridge is privately owned. To add a lift span, you’d have to shut it down for a long period of time, pour new piers, and add a lift span.

        The railroad bridge is the *only* railroad crossing east of the Gorge.

        BNSF is nearly a sovereign entity. – it’s owned that ROW for 100+ years. They won’t even say “yes” to straightening their tracks in Portland. You expect them to shut down their West Coast corridor for a year?

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        • Allan Folz February 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm

          Meh. Nearly a sovereign, and a sovereign is like lightning and lightning bug. For $3.2 Billion bucks you could have a new bridge airlifted into place by Chinook helicopters.

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    • televod February 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      Valid point– the alternatives I’ve seen have ranged from good-intentioned to half-baked. At this point, the public’s fatigued and it seems the advocacy groups are too. A silver lining (light rail! bike / ped access!) is a whole lot more agreeable at this stage than another do-over boondoggle, at least to some folks. Especially when the project’s now being pushed as an inevitability.

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      • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Everyone pushes their project as an inevitably. The Mt. Hood freeway was already tearing down houses in SE Portland, yet citizen activists still fought back and ultimately slayed that nightmare project. If the silent nonprofits had any courage, they’d stand up and help kill the CRC.

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        • dan February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm


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        • MD February 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm

          The MHF had a do-nothing alternative that provided many benefits and the money that was earmarked for the project was simply re-directed. Furthermore, it was not vital to freight and inter-state commerce. The project are dramatically different and constantly referencing the MHF is the kind of argument that undermines the opposition’s position.

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          • 9watts February 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm

            “Furthermore, it was not vital to freight and inter-state commerce”
            And the CRC is? Really?

            I’m sure the $140 M or $170M or whatever it’s grown to bought us some talking points about how necessary the CRC is to interstate commerce and freight, but I don’t believe a word of it. We already have I-205 for both, and there’s still the niggling fact that Portland itself does not have as many lanes slicing through it now nor will it ever as are proposed for the CRC, so where does that leave interstate commerce and freight movement?

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        • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm

          The MHF didn’t have multi-government stakeholders. It was on Oregon issue.

          The CRC has multiple stakeholders, and unfortunately for CRC opponents, those stakeholders have an equal seat at the table. Most notable of those stakeholders is the federal government – they have jurisdiction of I-5 and over what gets built. The Obama Administration has put high priority on the CRC.

          Furthermore, the feds see this project as vital to interstate commerce.

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          • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

            Todd –

            That is inaccurate. The Mount Hood freeway was a federal project using federal funding.

            The politics is clearly different. For one thing this is a $4 billion project that will create a ton of profitable work and jobs. And it may be ready to start spending money in the next couple years.

            The reason there are no realistic alternatives to the CRC on the table is because an enormous effort was made to prevent consideration of any realistic alternatives. The suggestion, for instance, of a simple local bridge connecting Denver and light rail across the river to Vancouver was never studied. That would allow the freeway connections to Jantzen Beach to be removed and leave the lanes for through traffic while ending a lot of weave on the freeway.

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            • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

              Ross – the MHF was meant to be Route 26 – a state highway. Yes, it was federally funded, but it was not under federal authority. I-5, however, is a federal highway and DC has the final word. MHF was dreamed up by the ODOT’s predecessor (Oregon State Highway Dept.) and they took advantage of generous federal funding opportunities at the time (90% funding and no strings attached). They failed.

              Second, several CRC alternatives were evaluated – in 2006 and 2007. Their website has volumes of PDFs that talk about alternatives. The CRC opponents didn’t seem to become vocal until after the EIS and feasibility studies (and the very long public comment periods) were long done. There’s very little opposition in during that era, or anywhere else for that matter. It seems the opposition sprung up when the years of due diligence were completed and CRC moved on to financing/build phase. In other words, they were very late to the party. Just like the Clackamas folks opposed to light rail, they didn’t voice their opposition in the planning stages.

              And last, the feds just aren’t interested in additional local bridges here. Nor is the state of Washington. CRC is in Obama’s list of high-prioirty projects, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. They want a reliable system of moving goods up and down the West Coast.

              If CRC opponents are so adament about local bridges, perhaps they should put together some proposals to get federal New Starts funding.

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              • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm

                I’m sorry Tom but you are wrong about the project.

                There is a reason they are jumping through all these hoops of local approval. There is no difference between 26 and I5 in their relationship to the federal government approval.

                There has been active opposition to this bridge for well over a decade. This bridge proposal came out of the third advisory group created to get it built. The first two broke down with recommendations that did not meet with the DOT’s approval, but left the door open for their solution to be adopted. The third time was the charm. Each advisory body winnowed out people who had objected to their plan while reappointing the supporters.

                Yes, they considered alternatives as they are required to do, but only ones they knew would fail. That is hardly a new strategy. They also defined a purpose and need statement that precluded attractive strategies. For instance, there was a whole study done for the express purpose of foreclosing tolling on existing facilities as an option. The decision not to consider alternatives that involved I-205 was part of one of the advisory groups. In short, this thing was wired from the start. The money spent on consultants to build a political coalition to back it was only the last step.

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              • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 4:26 pm

                Just to make something clear. If you put a toll on the existing facility, the congestion and excess traffic would disappear. Simple solution at very low cost. There is your alternative. Tolls first! The money can be stashed away to pay for the bridge replacement when needed in 60 years.

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              • 9watts February 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

                “there was a whole study done for the express purpose of foreclosing tolling on existing facilities as an option. The decision not to consider alternatives that involved I-205 was part of one of the advisory groups. In short, this thing was wired from the start. The money spent on consultants to build a political coalition to back it was only the last step.”

                Did our tax dollar also pay for this ‘wiring’ or just the studies and staff’s inability to create images of the proposed project? I’d very much like to learn more about the details of these discarded options. Is there a way to do that?

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              • Allan Folz February 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm

                I’m tired of hearing people imply the Interstate Bridge is the only choke point between Seattle and LAX. First it’s not, not even close!. Second there’s the I205 bridge. For $3.2 Billion you could widen the south half of I205 quite nicely.

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  • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Here is a link to the Coalition for a Livable Future for anyone who wants to DO something about the CRC:

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  • Tom Moore February 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    It looks like the only environmental advocacy group challenging the CRC is the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC). NEDC is a partner with the Coalition for a Livable Future and Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods in federal litigation- Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School is handling the case.

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  • Tom Moore February 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Here is a link to the complaint in the federal lawsuit filed in July 2012:

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  • Jim Lee February 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Four decades ago I worked with Jan Egger’s noise control group at the Oregon Environmental Council. There was another gentleman involved–he shall remain nameless–who treated our very productive efforts as steppingstone access to the heights of political and administrative power. He succeeded brilliantly; years later I heard that he was on the short list to be Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration. He did not get that position, but did garner mucho clout in Oregon’s corridors of power.

    Also, I briefly served on the board of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and remember the meeting at which Henry Richmond announced his resignation to found 1000 Friends of Oregon in order to focus on land-use issues.

    Both OEC and 1000 Friends have long since become intimate parts of Oregon’s political establishment, and one could argue that such access has enabled them to do a great deal of good. On the other hand, the CRC is the largest environmental and planning disaster ever to emerge in our state. At this crux they are showing that their co-option by powers-that-be and the ego-inflation accompanying, are much greater motivation than adherence to their founding principles.

    It is apparent to me that CRC never will be built, if only because the only practical passage between Portland and Vancouver for motor vehicles is a tunnel. The political clout, which has intimidated the Governor and Legislature, emanates from the leadership of a certain private engineering organization, which is a great deal more than it appears to be. That it is entirely incompetent and paranoid bespeaks criminal intelligence and purpose worthy of a James Bond villain.

    It is understandable that the weak of spirit have succumbed.

    John Kitzhaber is dead meat. So is Tina Kotek. Politics in Oregon never will be the same. Our beloved environmental organizations will be collateral damage.

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    • Marid February 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      John Kitzhaber is dead meat? Really? He’s not going to face a primary challenge to amount to much. Who is going to challenge him on the Republican side? Another Chris Dudley? He had chance in the year of the Tea Party, but that ship has sailed. The Republican Party is in crisis. Congress is making it worse. Everyone is yelling, “You’re going the wrong way!” And they keep talking about terrorists and expelling illegal immigrants and cutting off funding for domestic programs like healthcare. Good luck to them.

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      • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

        In spite of having a good ground game — I was one of many who canvassed for him, and we were sent to Northeast Portland, which should have been a slam dunk (no pun intended) for Kitz — and good name recognition, Kitzhaber barely squeaked by, and for a while the race was too close to call.

        Yes, that was a two-time governor against a weak Republican candidate who had no government experience whatsoever.

        Also, comparing Republican gubernatorial candidates (especially in Oregon) to Republican candidates on the national level is apples vs. oranges. Republicans at the state level hate the ones at the national level.

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      • Jacob February 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        Maybe someone will come along and to him what he did to Barbara Roberts?

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        • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

          It won’t be Tina Kotek. He who giveth can also taketh away.

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        • Ross Williams February 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm

          How about Barbara Roberts :)?

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    • 9watts February 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm
  • jeremy February 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I am completely opposed to the CRC, but I also have to admit that I believe I have a better sense of what it is than most (thank you Jonathan). To this I also have to admit that I am not particularly “fired up” about opposition to it–in large part because it seems that there are so many HUGE problems that need to be overcome before they can actually build it. Last I heard, there is no funding from WA, the coast guard doesn’t approve of the plan, the funding from OR is pretty tenuous…even the house vote was the result of lots of people voting with the knowledge that other benchmarks had to be met before there is any building. So….which is it? Is the project too huge to stop, or too flawed to continue? I don’t know, but I am certain that if I ask someone who is not well informed, the idea of a new I-5 bridge sounds great. Perhaps Jonathan’s writing (along with other journalists) will bring the details to light and that will change the conversation…?

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  • Lisa Marie White February 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. The lack of response from these groups has been disheartening, and has placed any and all of my contributions and paid memberships in question.

    With expected green house gas emission increases of 35%, the dangers of increased cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets in N/NE, the risk to dwindling populations of sea lions on the Columbia, the complete obliteration of our transportation budget for years to come, all for one poorly designed, poorly planned, ineffective project… there are so many detrimental environmental and transportation equity implications tied to the CRC. These groups have promised to give voice to their collective memberships, and they are failing to do so on an incredibly important issues with long-ranging consequences.

    When will we finally hear from them? When will standing for what they say they do, despite risk to political standing, take precedence? I still believe they can step up and do what is right and best for our region, and I hope they do.

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  • GlowBoy February 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Todd Hudson and Marid completely miscaricaturize (I just made me up a new Bushism!) the opposition. Most of us certainly would not cheer if the current bridge collapsed (you’re getting the Interstate Bridge mixed up with another bridge), nor do we want everyone to stop driving.

    We just want to stop massively subsidizing driving at the expense of other modes, and that is EXACTLY what the CRC amounts to.

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    • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      There isn’t an “expense of other modes” – the bridge, in its current iteration, includes light rail and bike/pedestrian access. Those things are in there at the insistence of Oregon. If you take out light rail, Oregon will balk and the project comes to a halt.

      Now, Washington and the feds on the other hand, want increased traffic capacity. There’s nothing we can do about that. WA will balk if increased lanes aren’t part of the design. So will the feds – the entity which has jurisdiction over I-5. It’s a federal highway and there’s nothing we can do about that.

      The CRC is itself a compromise in a multijurisdictional atmosphere, and everyone is getting what they are demanding. That’s why the scope, cost, and size blew up to what it is. All the stakeholders hold their own purse strings and want something different, and the only way to move forward is to give everyone what they want.

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      • spare_wheel February 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        “the bridge, in its current iteration”

        this is a massive multi-lane highway expansion. i have no problem with a mere bridge replacement but i have a very big problem with my tax money being used to subsidize the metastasis of sprawl in southern washington.

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        • Todd Hudson February 28, 2013 at 4:29 pm

          You are not the only party of interest here. As hideous as it sounds, Washington wants more sprawl on their side. That’s just how it is. You just cannot use a federal highway to punish people with whom you disagree. The federal government is in the business of promoting interstate commerce.

          We’re getting bike/ped lanes and we’re getting light rail. And we shouold fight tooth and nail to make sure those stay in the design. But we can’t have a new bridge with the existing capacity, because the feds and WA want otherwise. We can’t have everything we want!

          Some of the CRC opponents sound like spoiled petulent children thinking they are the only voices who matter.

          I am sorry, but the feds will not recognize this Portland vs Vancouver BS when it comes to building highways.

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          • Paul Cone February 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

            “As hideous as it sounds, Washington wants more sprawl on their side…The federal government is in the business of promoting interstate commerce.”

            So, which is it? Is the Federal government in the business of promoting interstate commerce? Or sprawl? I’ll bet that if the Feds were lobbied that the CRC is more about sprawl than they’ve probably been told, they might have second thoughts.

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      • Chris I February 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

        Giving everyone what they want is not compromising. The CRC committee’s solution to the state disagreements were to just give everyone everything, while ignoring the economic realities. If you have two children arguing over a toy, do you just buy another one?

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      • Dan Kaufman February 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

        Actually Todd, the bicycle/pedestrian access has been significantly cut on this project to (temporarily) save $15 million (less than 1% of the projected cost). Please see this other great story you won’t find anywhere else than

        We should know soon when the senate is voting on HB2800 and I would encourage all active transportation advocates to attend the vote and make our presence and displeasure well know since we WILL NOT be allowed to refer this this bill back to the voters using the referendum process our “grandfathers” fought hard to put in the Oregon state Constitution.

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    • Carol Patterson March 30, 2013 at 7:41 am

      I have to admit I had never realized there were Vancouver progressives like you who actively oppose the current CRC solution. However I KNOW there are tons of Sara Palin type supporters up here who oppose the current solution **because it includes light rail** for gawd’s sake. I am not fired up because I just don’t wanna go through another round with the numerous knuckle draggers up here who think that global warming is a hoax. They have voted against solutions with light rail several times already. Is the CRC perfect? Hell no. Could it be worse? Hell yeah.

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      • 9watts April 1, 2013 at 9:25 am

        Carol Patterson: “Is the CRC perfect? Hell no. Could it be worse? Hell yeah.”

        Help me here. I’m having trouble seeing how it could be worse.

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        • Alan 1.0 April 1, 2013 at 10:46 am

          Experiencing a seismic failure before anything is done is a worse solution than the CRC, to me, and I’m one of the people that Carol never realized existed (iow, I don’t think the CRC is a particularly good proposal).

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          • 9watts April 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

            “Experiencing a seismic failure before anything is done is a worse solution than the CRC, to me”

            Wait, you’d rather we spend the money on this boondoggle and find ourselves with an unusable CRC after the big earthquake rather than rebuild the current one under those circumstances? Unless I’m mistaken we haven’t yet figured out how to build bridges that can still be used after the kind of earthquake we expect to have here one of these days. We have, I think, figured out how to build bridges that stay standing long enough for people/cars/whatever to get off/out from under them in an earthquake, but not to remain usable.

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            • Alan 1.0 April 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm

              I think that enhanced likelihood of a new bridge surviving a seismic event is worth considering and that the few $B price for such survival would be worth it (given that predicting exact disablement degrees and modes is uncertain). We know the current bridge(s) will fail with relatively small seismic events, which are likely. That’s not to say I think the CRC is a good design or the best possible deal, or that I wouldn’t like other plans which address the survival of that bridge with better urbanistic design aren’t more appealing to me. But those are not the question you raised with Carol.

              To me, the real significance of this line of discussion is not a few nerds arguing relative points about CRC, but instead is the broader case that pros and cons of a wide range of potential solutions has NOT been part of the public discourse. Maybe shooting down the CRC might result in a better future plan which encompasses both geologic durability and urban design, and that seems to be the basket that many CRC opponents are hoping for, and I might even be persuaded to lean that way, but if nothing gets done before a catastrophic event, I’m not going to look at it as a success . In that case, however, I will look beyond the people who are presently objecting to the CRC and direct my criticism at the politicians who have stifled creative design in favor of monied interests and instead ramrodded the freeway project through both cities.

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              • 9watts April 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

                I guess we just disagree. I think a collapsed I-5 bridge would be vastly preferable to the CRC freeway expansion project as currently proposed.
                People lived in these parts, and quite well, before those bridges across the Columbia River were built. Let’s not pretend we couldn’t or can’t, if it came to that.

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  • Ron Buel February 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Jonathan: Wonderful story. I have to admit that I wrote an e-mail to Willamette week suggesting this story yesterday.
    it’s hard not to answer the posters above like Marid and Todd Hudson, who are quite off base and not well informed. But I will stick to giving my answer to your basic question. The Oregon Legislature has two sides that are fairly evenly matched — Republicans and Democrats. Who controls the legislature depends on the outcome of the so-called “swing seats” in which both parties have a chance to win. There are about 20 swing seats in the House, but only about eight in the Senate. These seats are now the subject of the most expensive fights in the general elections in November — more than $1 million spent by each side. The money the Democrats get for these races (its difficult to follow because the major contributors give to sure winners who then give their money to the caucus organizations who run the campaigns in the swing seats) comes from organized labor, both public and private unions. About two-thirds of the contributions for these contested races spent by Democrats comes from labor. On the Republican side, the same thing happens but the major business organizations are the main contributors, and in total, they give more than labor. The Speaker of the House can keep her job (in this case Tina Kotek) only if she pushes labor’s agenda. The Minority Leader, Mike MacLane, can keep his job only if he pushes the business agenda. Same is true in the Senate, with Peter Courtney the President, and Ted Ferrioli, the Minority Leader.
    Do you notice that I can explain the situation without mentioning the word environmental organization in the whole paragraph.
    What Goldschmidt and Tom Imeson and Henry Hewitt did when they conceived this project, is that they hired two lobbyists with the original $50 million of project money — Tom Markgraf and David Parisi. To get the project through Metro and the City Council, Markgraf and Parisi worked for 2-1/2 years organizing on Hayden Island, and with the powerful labor organizations and the powerful business organizations. So when the project went public in 2008 for votes at the Portland City Planning Commission and at Metro,

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    • Paul in the 'couve February 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      So what it boils down to is Construction contractors associations, unions, wealthy business and wealthy (mostly 1% ers) have driven this process from the beginning and they want the rest of us to pay for it. The evaluation of alternatives, the EIP, the coverage from the Oregonian, the Columbian, the news stations and OPB all softballed because ad revenue and donations are threatened.

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  • Hart Noecker February 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    What Would Jane Jacobs Do? She’d come to Velo Cult this Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 for the next No CRC ‘house’ party:

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  • Ron Buel February 28, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    when the project went public in 2008 for votes at the Portland City Planning Commission, Portland City Council and at Metro, the organizing work done by Markgraf and Parisi made the outcome a done deal, because the organizations Markgraf and Parisi had organized were the main contributors to the city council and Metro races, and it turns out fortuitously for the project, the same people are also the major contributors to the legislative races. Markgraf was paid by we taxpayers $1,050,000 for his work and Parisi $1.4 million. McCaig simply picked up their contacts and organized forward for the legislature, and made her little $418,000. This brilliant strategy of organizing the main contributors, the special interest groups, on behalf of this massive project was matched in Washington where the public relations and lobbying firm, EnviroIssues was paid $5.4 million through December of 2012 by we taxpayers to organize and lobby on behalf of the CRC.
    If you are a legislator in a swing seat, you are going to damn well pay attention to what Tina Kotek and Peter Courtney want you to do, because they ladle out the money in the contested races. If you are Carolyn Tomei or Lew Frederick, who sit in urban seats that are not really contested by Republicans, you have a lot more freedom to vote your conscience than anyone in a swing seat, which they did. It is more difficult to justify the votes of people like Michael Dembrow, Jules Bailey and others who could have voted against the CRC but gained trading chips with labor and leadership for not doing so. If you are Tobias Read, and you didn;t make it at Nike, and you need a job, then perhaps you will lead the fight for this dreadful project, and hope you get a job out of it with business or labor. In that case, I don’t think you should make public service your bet, and, i might add, your constituents should throw you out for not asking a single relavent question in 24 hours of oversight committee meetings, and I did attend them.
    Generally speaking in Oregon, progressives are screwed, unless they happen to work for one of the unions. Environmentalists have little or no real power, and they will not so long as its money that matters. They certainly don’t control labor. They certainly don’t control the press — look at who Willamette Week endorsed in the swing seats, for example. And The Oregonian has become an embarrassment to the decent journalists who still work there, as the right-wing publisher and his right-wing editorial page editor push this project on the front page and in their 38th and 39th editorials on the subject since June of 2008, both in the last two weeks.
    What should we progressive environmentalists do about this situation. Well, you should pay strong attention to campaign finance reform. You should think seriously about how you get information about subjects like this, and what the community needs to do to have an informed electorate. And give to Jonathan Maus, Barry Johnson, Diane Lund and Michael Anderson, (that’s, Oregon Arts Watch, The Lund Report and Portland Afoot) for trying to fill the massive void left in the fourth estate in this City and State.

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  • Jim Lee February 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Is this why you split from Neil, Ron?

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  • Ron Buel February 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    One more little connect-the-dots item about The Oregonian. Its largest advertiser by far is Fred Meyer, which is now owned by Kroger. Fred Meyer also happens to be the largest importer at Rivergate, with its trucks coming out Marine Drive to get on I-5 and go to the warehouse in Clackamas County. At the second Monday hearing in the legislative hearings in the joint committee on the CRC, Fred Meyer executive Matt Hoffman testified on behalf of the CRC, complaining that his trucks sitting in the congestion on Marine Drive and I-5 costs the company $50,000 a year. i respectfully submit that this is a rounding error for the 133-store chain, and not worth Mr. Hoffman’s time in driving to Salem and back, whatever his position with the massive Kroger chain. Fred Meyer is also an active participant in the Portland Business Alliance, where Christian Anderson, Publisher of the Oregonian sits on the board of that big biz group. It is out of such trivial connections that this massively idiotic project, the largest public works project in the history of the State, is borne and caused to survive, and yes thrive, despite its numerous flaws and the incredibly botched and bungled leadership it has received.

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  • Ron Buel February 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Why should the enviro organizations care about the CRC? Air pollution and air toxics, climate change, peak oil, endangered salmon runs, sprawl in Clark County, alternative transportation finance. The list goes on and on. I am not supporting any more enviro orgainzations beyond CLF, who has been a true leader in sussing out what the real problems are that need to be addressed.

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  • maxd February 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    This seems like a coherent alternative to rebuilding the bridge, but doesn’t address the massive amount of freeway expansion:

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    • Alan 1.0 February 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Without expressing opinion on that article, I think it’s fair to keep in mind that David Madore (who is also a Clark County Commissioner) is the publisher of

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  • was carless February 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Don’t forget, the environmentalists, most of whom live in Vancouver and commute to Portland via I-5, drive cars too!

    They are as tired of sitting in traffic as anyone else, apparently.

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    • Norman Hamilton February 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      They can look forward to years of construction delays if and when the CRC gets built. And when it’s finished there will still be the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter.

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  • sd February 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm
  • Evan Manvel February 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Give money to CLF. Give money and volunteer with Bike Walk Vote. Build the organizations in line with your values.

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  • Ted Buehler February 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Excellent journalism by Jonathan.

    It is strange, given the region’s strong history of alternatives to freeway expansion, that the silence on this one is so deep and broad.

    Ted Buehler

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  • q`Tzal February 28, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Want to keep CRC enhanced traffic out of neighborhoods?
    Toll all southbound exits $2.00.
    No matter how far you travel on I-5 the toll costs the same; this incentivizes drivers to do ALL of their southbound travel on the interstate. Commuters have to guess whether or not it is worth it to pay the toll twice if they jump out of the traffic jam only to find that the surface streets are slower.

    Also, in support of this strategy, we need to make the arterials surrounding I-5 as pedestrian and bike friendly and high speed traffic unfriendly as possible.
    As long as the “hole in the air” remains unaltered for the well funded freight interests we should be able to pull that off.

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  • Douglas K February 28, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    87,213. That’s how many valid signatures would be needed to put an initiative petition on the ballot to repeal HB 2800 after it’s signed into law. The law was passed as an “emergency” measure to prevent a referral to the voters. But that won’t prevent an initiative that simply repeals the law.

    Collecting 87,213 valid signatures is something a coalition of grassroots activists can do. Every single powerful argument against the CRC can wind up in the Voter’s Pamphlet. No more insider games – it would be up for a public vote. And just how popular will the project be outside the Portland area — particularly among downstate rightwingers who want to kill anything with light rail attached?

    One problem I see with a repeal petition (as opposed to a referral) is the confusion that probably will arise from the “yes means no” nature of the vote. Yes, we want to stop it vs. no, we want to build it.

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  • Brian Willson March 1, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Thanks for staying on this topic, revealing the lack of advocacy by the environmental groups, and provoking this discussion.

    To me, it is just astounding that as a people, as a species, as portlanders, we just cannot come to grips with the reality of global warming largely due to our insatiable consumption of a lifestyle based on burning carbon.

    Instead of experiencing our carbon dilemma as an emergency needing a Manhattan-like effort to move quickly to a non-carbon-based economy, necessary for perhaps some of us to survive past about the year 2040, as a body politic we are still promoting business as usual, expanding infrastructure that facilitates burning more carbon for ever more car and truck travel rather then less.

    Instead, we could be dramatically accelerating an already bike-friendly city in such a way so as to promote a 10-fold increase in biking as a radical alternative, while increasing, not decreasing, bus service.

    It seems that we are somehow deeply committed to suicide, or more accurately, ecocide. Isn’t this strange and almost unbelievable?

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  • Granpa March 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I can see that the tone of BikePortland in regard to the CRC opposition may have something to do with the lack of broad consensus and results. The previous article stated that the CRC, State of Oregon and State of Washington were actively participating in deception, obfuscation and outright lies. Really!? This frothy diatribe had the same persuasive power as the “truther” or “birther” complainants. The failure of this venue, which on so many issues strives to be objective, to give credence to the reasons for the CRC, distances its readers from a broader understanding of the issues and ultimately an understanding of why their opposition is getting no traction. This blog is an echo chamber in a fish bowl repeating itself to the same cast of characters who heartily and loudly agree into the blog. Clearly the methods employed by the CRC opposition are not swaying those who are undecided or influencing those who just don’t care.
    Part of the anti-persuasion is to package red herrings in their arguments. One still hears about bike facilities being eliminated from bridge. Not true. Same with Light Rail. The pending catastrophes brought on by global warming are wrested on the construction and use of this structure. While global warming is fact, construction of the bridge and its use only nibble at the edges of this problem. More good would come by initiating a carbon tax. That would inspire the marketplace to favor renewable energy and electric vehicles. The sprawl issue (which is certainly a drag) is a lifestyle choice for which holier-than-thou urbanites deride suburbanites. Good luck persuading Vancouver house fraus and office men that their lifestyle is a dance with the devil. Again, however a carbon tax would again inspire more dense development. Regarding the notion that the large structure destroys neighborhoods and divides Vancouver, Um there is already an interstate freeway there dividing the neighborhood and the impact areas are (for the most part) already no-man’s lands of parking lots. The notion that it is a pork laden jobs program has some credence, but I don’t see that jobs are a bad thing, especially when they result in a product that over the long term will facilitate greater connectivity, commerce, safety and efficiency of travel. Will the neighborhoods suffer from bypass traffic at the Rose Quarter? Yup, but they already do, so that is something that will not change.
    It appears the supporters of the Bridge and freeway widening actually represent the broader population. Everyone knows it is tremendously expensive. Everyone knows it is flawed. The reasons for supporting it, despite its shortcomings must be pretty overwhelming but you won’t read about it here.

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    • Evan Manvel March 1, 2013 at 9:03 am

      “It appears the supporters of the Bridge and freeway widening actually represent the broader population.”

      While that may have been true in the past, before people have learned about all the problems with this project, all the available evidence points otherwise today. Clark County voters just voted down funding the CRC. The best-ever funded Portland Mayoral candidate lost in the primary in part because she supported it. The other two candidates both were on record opposing it. People are against this.

      And the lies are well-documented.

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    • Ross Williams March 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

      “Good luck persuading Vancouver house fraus and office men that their lifestyle is a dance with the devil.”

      What do you say to people who move to Vancouver, miles away from where they work, and complain about how long it takes to get to work.

      What do you say to people who complain about the congestion and traffic that they are entirely responsible for creating?

      What do you say to people who want their co-workers who live close to work in Portland to sit and wait at ramp meters so they can zoom by on their way to work?

      What do you say to people who want to increase the value of their home that is a long way away from employment centers at the expense of the property values of homes close to jobs. The conclusion of a Metro study that has never been challenged, or widely publicized, is that the widening of the bridge would increase property values in Clark County, while damaging property values on the Oregon side of the river.

      I think it is important to understand this is a conflict over benefits and burdens. This project is moving forward because the folks that get the benefits are the ones calling the shots. Those who will have the burdens have been excluded from the process and marginalized.

      The real question may be why the local businesses and neighborhood groups along the freeway have been silent. They have at least as big a stake in the outcome as the environmental and bike community.

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      • 9watts March 1, 2013 at 10:10 am

        “What do you say to people…?”

        you tell them that we have entered the twilight of automobility and that we’re going to have to adjust our expectations to this new reality.

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        • Alan March 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm

          The problem is that if you tell most people that, they’ll just get madder at us (environmentalists and people who want civilization to survive the coming transition) and put more pressure on the Federal government to make sure that those A-rabs don’t stop us from pumpin’ our oil out from under their countries.

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      • Paul in the 'couve March 1, 2013 at 10:50 am

        Maybe I’m not in the best position to judge, but over hear in a neighborhood on Vancouver that is very well situated for a hypothetical property value increase, I find plenty of people generally opposed to the bridge (and certainly the light rail of course). There are several small grass roots efforts starting to block the bridge here. I am seeing flyers and meeting people regularly that are working to block the bridge. I don’t spend enough time in PDX but my impression is that opposition to the project as a whole is higher here than in PDX. Yes, the opposition here is composed of a significant fraction that are all for the lanes but against tolls and light rail, but there are also people that opposed to freeway expansion.

        I don’t think broad characterization that the citizens of Clark County are the driving force behind this is all that helpful. Yes, supporters exist – among people that commute – but most people in Vancouver DON”T commute to PDX.

        Ron Buel does an excellent job above of laying out what is driving this project and it is Kroger /Fred Meyer and Unions and business interestes MOSTLY in PDX. Not the middle class citizens of Clark County.

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        • Ross Williams March 1, 2013 at 11:27 am

          First, to be clear, I was not suggesting that people in Vancouver were the ones pushing the bridge.

          “a neighborhood on Vancouver that is very well situated for a hypothetical property value increase”

          As I recall, it is not the close in neighborhoods in Vancouver that got most of the property value benefit. The big benefits were to homes in rural Clark County and surrounding communities.

          I think many people who live in many close in Vancouver communities are losers in this process as much as people who live in Portland neighborhoods along I-5.

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          • Paul in the 'couve March 1, 2013 at 11:48 am


            I appreciate your nuance. I still disagree that even among rural / semi-rural residents of Clark county that their home values is a major consideration in this, or that as a group they are particularly strong supporters of the project.

            The folks that would really gain from such a property value increase are the big land owners (timber companies and their derivatives) and developers and major housing contractors. The larger of these companies are regional with holdings and projects on both sides of the bridge.

            I just don’t think characterizing this as a problem driven from Clark County is either accurate or helpful.

            I am suggesting to the many of the readers on BP.ORG who I have seen over the past years constantly blaming this on Vancouver that on major reason that activism in PDX is failing here, is because they are sitting on their buts blaming this on WA while it is business and union interests in OREGON that are pushing this project. Not primarily commuters from Clark County.

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            • Ross Williams March 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

              Paul –

              To add more nuance to the nuance.

              I agree with you that the folks that recognize the property value benefit are the people in the development business. Many of us work to improve our neighborhoods. That helps our home value, but it isn’t the reason we do it. We just want to make it a better place to live.

              I also agree that people in Vancouver and Clark County are not driving this thing politically. But their decisions to live in Clark County are certainly one of the causes of the problem. Which was what I was commenting on. And I agree that, even if true, blaming folks in Washington that way is not very helpful.

              I also agree that the effort for people in Oregon needs to be focused on Oregon decision makers. But, as Jonathon amply demonstrates, talk is cheap. The real question is going to be whether people are prepared to walk the walk. Because, whether people like it or not, stopping this project is an expensive undertaking that will need both a lot of people and a lot of money. That $1 million+ dollars that was spent to put together the coalition that is supporting this project was not wasted. Taking them on is not going to be easy. CLF has the capacity to call on its member organizations for help, but they aren’t going to get that help unless they can show some chance of success. Those groups all have limited resources and have to set priorities if they want to get anything done. If we want them to make stopping the CRC a priority, then CLF has to show it can put together the resources to win.

              I think Jonathon is wrong that there hasn’t been a coordinated effort. CLF has been the central player on the CRC for a long time. Other groups have looked to them for leadership. I think part of the problem is they haven’t really had the resources to develop a strong coalition to support that effort.

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              • Paul in the 'couve March 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm

                Gotcha Ross.. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

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        • spare_wheel March 3, 2013 at 2:57 pm

          people who live in portland (or OR) do not need to cross a bridge to reach portland. spend a few minute on a ped bridge over I5 at 7 am M-F and you will notice that most vehicle traffic is flowing south.

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          • Paul in the 'couve March 3, 2013 at 3:48 pm

            True as an observation, but what conclusion do you draw from that?

            What I have been trying to point out above is that many people are drawing fallacious conclusions from that observation and as a result they have been fighting the wrong battle.

            Drawing the conclusion that the CRC project is being proposed because of people in Clark County from the fact that more people commute towards Portland is fallacious reasoning, and it turns out, a misdirection if not totally false.

            To conclude from the # of southbound commuters that the majority of people in Clark County, or even the majority of the people commuting is fallacious. It may or may not be true, but you can not conclude that simply from observing traffic.

            Finally, and most importantly, assuming that the MAIN DRIVING FORCE behind the CRC is people in Clark County because of the commuting #s is fallacious and it seems (from the article we are discussing) both false and unhelpful.

            My point is that the true political forces behind the CRC are actually A) Unions – on both sides of the river but largely in PDX B) Shipping Industry Businesses – mainly in PDX, C) Developers (Regional many with headquarters and most with holdings in Oregon, and D) Other Business interests (mainly in PDX) like Fred Meyer.

            I have never claimed that Clark County residents don’t use the Bridge more, but many people in Clark County rarely cross. Both cities and both states benefit from the bridge.

            Constantly harping on “Clark County Commuters” isn’t helping stop the CRC because it isn’t aimed on the people that have the political clout that is behind this project.

            And personally, I am tired of reading such simplistic analysis.

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            • Paul in the 'couve March 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm

              I apologize for being a bit too strident above, I’ll tone down. Also I apologize for my inadequacies as a writer and lack of editing. My first point is not as clear as I would like.

              What I am trying to say with that, is that the POLITICAL animal that is the CRC proposal does not have as it’s source the commuters from Clark County. Certainly, the fact that there is a lot of traffic (and yes more of it from Clark County) is used as the “problem” identified as the reason for the CRC. However, the commuters don’t have the political clout to make this project happen, that is coming from elsewhere. Further, it isn’t even a given that the majority of people who actually commute to PDX from Clark County are strong supporters of the freeway expansion. In any case, they have never been given a fair chance to evaluate and choose options on a level playing field based on cost and impact and how they solve the problem.

              Blaming the residents of Clark County for everything that is wrong in ODOT and WADOT and the Federal Highway Administration and the Democratic political machine in OR is a waste of typing.

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              • Alan 1.0 March 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm

                Plus one, Paul. Building a coalition means bridging gaps between groups and people, not applying stereotypes indiscriminately and divisively.

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    • Dan Kaufman March 1, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Granpa says, “One still hears about bike facilities being eliminated from bridge. Not true.”

      Actually, they have already removed significant sections of the MUP from phase one of the project. There is nothing to prevent further erosion nor is there a timeline add that section back in. Show me otherwise.

      You know you can go thru all the gymnastics you want. This project is counter-productive to our goals and even the project goals so even if it were free it would be a bad deal. It’s not free, though. It’s the most expensive transportation project in Oregon history. That’s all there really is to it.

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  • Dave March 1, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Maybe what we need to push this discussion along is a catastrophic, humiliating military defeat in the Middle East to show us that there is no future in murdering people so as to steal their oil for our misguided transportation policies.

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  • Craig Harlow March 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Both freshman legislators and advocacy leaders, sources say, have been told directly that if they oppose HB 2800, they will pay for it

    …have been told directly by whom? Colleagues? Campaign contributors? Men In Black?

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  • Craig Harlow March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

    At Tuesday’s Stop the CRC house party, I subscribed to monthly giving to the Coalition for a Livable Future,

    I have just now cancelled my BTA membership (email to

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    • bjorn March 1, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      I also gave to the CLF and became a member at their recent house party, and no longer pay into the BTA. Similar reasons, very frustrated by the silence from them, can’t figure out why they say they are opposed but are sitting on the sidelines. How much does it cost to have their lobbyist speak to all the senators???

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      • are March 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm

        indeed. how much would it have cost, including not only the lobbyist’s actual time, but also all the preparation and development of data and materials to support a meaningful effort. and what other efforts should that money and effort be diverted from. and what result might we expect. but it costs next to nothing to disparage the BTA on these boards.

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  • q`Tzal March 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Who needs tolls?
    Eliminate ALL the subsidies and tax breaks that petrochemical and farm ethanol producers get.
    Then those “market forces” the tea baggers are so proud of will show them that the entire range of densities between thriving dense urban and rural farmland only exist because the federal government has been financially supporting the sub-urban paradigm since post-WWII for fear of falling back in to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

    You make oil, and by extension all automotive fuel use, expensive and everyone will be BEGGING for good public transit in well crafted dense urban cities.
    As long as we artificially support transportation costs we encourage sprawl and require more roads so the sprawl can grow.

    This is the USA’s chief product: unsustainable suburban sprawl.

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  • Hart Noecker March 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    In rereading Gerik Kransky’s carefully worded response, I’m curious if he thinks he’s successfully avoided the question. It would seem to be a huge issue of credibility for him to say the BTA was going to bat against the CRC in 2013. Did he outright lie? Or did the BTA throw him under a bus on this?

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    • Paul Cone March 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      That is not the first time I have seen Gerik go full court press on something and then completely drop it without any defensible explanation.

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      • Hart Noecker March 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

        Kransky apparently doesn’t like criticism. I asked him personally why he made the claim that BTA would lobby against the CRC when this in fact wasn’t true, and his response to me was one of personal attack that in no way answered my question.

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  • Ross Williams March 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Perhaps its time to revive Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP), the organization that fought the Westside Bypass in Washington County. That was a done deal in 1990 too.

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  • zenriver March 12, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks Jonathan for the great investigative reporting. The collusion of denial among the big land use and environmental groups is very revealing. Wendell Berry says it best in his essay, “In Distrust of Movements”: They “inevitably lapse into self-righteousness and self-betrayal” because they exist mostly to perpetuate themselves and their allegiance to big-money funders. The big groups could have pooled their resources against the CRC and made a united front for a responsible alternative — instead they stayed in their bunkers and weaseled out, doing what the politicians from D.C and Salem told them to do.

    Big movements have become outdated– and a detriment to progress because it is wrongly assumed that they will take on the big fights. It’s time to stop deferring to them– time to go with the strength of crowd-sourced, nimble, creative, online mobilization and deployments of local citizens groups when important livability and eco-social-financial issues come up. The courageous leaders quoted in your story can network with hundreds of other small groups united for a common purpose– unfazed by the polarizing agendas of corrupt so-called “representative” politicians and their lackeys in the big groups. We can use the momentum from this experience to empower direct democracy going forward for the Portland-Vancouver metro area.

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  • SmilingAhab March 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    It should be rather simple to anyone who read the article. The Federal Government(tm) has told the state legislature that the CRC WILL be built, or the federal transportation money will disappear, and has told the state NGO chapters they’ll sit this one out or the Fed will come in and tear up every NGO in Portland like they did ACORN.

    What is an NGO state chapter consisting of a few thousand people to do when their very existence is threatened by the federal government?

    The USG wants three superhighways from the tip of Argentina to the ends of Canada in order to turn the Western hemisphere into One Big Market. The CRC is just one more piece in the construction of a one-world corporate oligarchy.

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