“The Columbia River Crossing is dead”

The Washington Legislature has failed to pass any funding for the Columbia River Crossing highway expansion project.
(Graphic: CRC project rendering)

“The Columbia River Crossing is dead.”

That’s the lede in a story just posted by The Columbian newspaper a few minutes ago that reports the Washington Legislature has adjourned without voting on a transportation package that included the only chance for the Columbia River Crossing to get funded. Here’s more:

“After intense political wrangling, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent*, and a controversy that embroiled Clark County for the better part of a decade, the Washington Senate delivered the fatal blow to the beleaguered project Saturday.”

(*About $170 million dollars has been spent in planning)

I didn’t believe when Joe Cortright emailed that story to me a few minutes ago. Then I read the official statement from Governor Kitzhaber (emphasis mine):

“I am extremely disappointed that our legislative partners in the Washington State Senate failed to address the clear and present safety and economic need for this essential I-5 bridge. I have worked with three committed Washington governors on this project — starting with Governor Locke, then Governor Gregoire and now Governor Inslee — which makes the demise of the Columbia River Crossing without an up or down vote in the Senate even more disheartening. I want to thank Governor Inslee for his strong support and extraordinary effort to deliver Washington’s share of funding for the I-5 replacement bridge. The failure of the Senate to act does not eliminate the safety and economic risks to both our states, but without the funds from Washington and adherence to the project budget and schedule, neither state can incur the further costs of delay. Consequently, project managers have begun to close down the project.

This is a huge moment for this disastrous boondoggle of a project. Obviously the forces that pushed it this far are likely to keep gasping for breath and they will try whatever they can to keep it alive. But Kitzhaber made it clear that the Washington legislature had to act and they didn’t. It seems the CRC as we know it is dead.

I have mixed emotions. Since that night in February 2007 when I came back from a neighborhood meeting disgusted by the PR show I had heard about a “bridge project,” I’ve posted 75 stories about the CRC. I always suspected it would die, but CRC backers (especially the “Woman behind the bridge”) surprised me (and everyone else) when they aggressively rammed it through Salem this year.

After the project languished amid controversy and lack of political support, the momentum returned as land-use, bicycle, and environmental non-profits largely sat on the sidelines while many Oregon Democrats went against the will of constituents to support it (even though many lawmakers had no idea what they were even voting on). It took Washington Republicans who were suspicious of such a huge government expenditure — especially one that included light rail — to finally kill this thing.

Congratulations to everyone that fought this beast of a project! Especially the citizen activists who volunteered countless hours to fight it.

(The images below are from an anti CRC ride and the CRC Opposition and Alternatives Rally that was held in Waterfront Park in Portland in April 2009.)

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Joe Cortright, an economist and outspoken critic of the project.

For full report on this story read The Columbian: CRC meets demise as legislature adjourns.

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