By Ron Buel of Portland, Oregon. Ron is a longtime progressive activist in Portland. In November 2006, he contributed "Let's put the East Bank freeway in a tunnel".
Every now and then Oregon has its own profiles in courage.
Metro Councilors Robert Liberty, Carlotta Collette and Carl Hosticka have provided us recent examples of what courage is like.
Facing an incredible political onslaught in favor of a new 12-lane, $4.2 billion bridge across the Columbia, they stood up to take a lot of flak. A project endorsed by The Oregonian, by The Portland Tribune, by Governors Ted Kulongoski and Chris Gregoire, by the Portland Business Alliance, by the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council and by the Oregon Trucking Association makes courage a rare commodity. Add to that the most managed and scripted project approval process that I’ve seen in 40 years of watching, fed by $50 million in consultant money. Add to that some poker-playing public officials in Vancouver and Clark County. Then take some formerly-credible environmentalists like Rex Burkholder, Fred Hansen and Gail Achterman and observe them leading the charge for all this additional highway capacity, trying to “greenwash” this project that is anything but green.
Progressives and environmentalists need to show up at the Hearing in the Metro Chambers at 2 p.m. this Thursday, June 5, and testify in support of Liberty, Hosticka and Collette and their lower-priced, phased, arterial bridge alternative that would include transit and bicycle-pedestrian facilities.
What the three Metro Councilors have accomplished is to make it possible for David Bragdon to take control of the process. He says he is in favor of a replacement bridge, but one that is downsized. He wants to do an independent audit of the Columbia River Crossing Task Force assumptions and projections. He wants to take the design pencil out of the hands of the backward, behind-the-times Departments of Transportation for Oregon and Washington. He wants to recognize climate change and peak oil as realities, to say nothing about $4 a gallon gasoline. And Hosticka, Collette and Liberty have enabled Bragdon to take the lead.
Too bad that Governor Kulongoski, our big-talking advocate for reducing global warming pollution, has lined up behind the big, new bridge instead, completely blowing his credibility. Because 40% of the global warming pollution in the region comes from fossil fuel used by vehicles. And this bridge project will induce a lot more driving, and more driving means more global warming pollution. Where is Kulongoski when we need him to transform the Oregon Department of Transportation into a 21st-century agency, instead of a 1950s-style highway department?
We need the $1.4 billion in local and state match that would be spent on this big new bridge. We need to spend it instead on a competitive transit system that helps people get out of their cars at rush hour. Projects that help people live closer to where they work. Projects that don’t promote sprawl, but instead promote compact urban growth. Projects that recognize that the price of a barrel of oil has tripled from $45 to $135 in the last four years, and is headed straight up. Projects that don’t mean a big increase in greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about the issue, go to smarterbridge.org, and then show up to testify Thursday afternoon at Metro.