A Brighter Future for Oregon: Ending the CRC

A Brighter Future for Oregon: Ending the CRC

Protecting our city's most precious asset: our children. The scene at this year's Community Cycling Center Holiday Bike Drive

By Lisa Marie White of Portland, Oregon. Lisa Marie is a registered nurse, a board member of Bike Walk Vote, and describes herself as a citizen actively engaged in promoting healthy communities in Portland and all of Oregon.

Childhood asthma.

In the era of Swine Flu, pandemics, and entire shows dedicated to outrageous medical oddities (an amoeba in his BRAIN?!), the concept of asthma seems so blasé.

But to the kids who deal with it on a daily basis, often bravely and without complaint, and to their parents, who lovingly hide their very real anxiety and concern for the adorable little people who occupy the center of their universe, asthma is not just a reference in passing. It is a life-long burden. It is the fear that at any moment, their child could drown on dry land.

If you could prevent one more child and family from the pain of this disease, would you? What if you could prevent even one more person or family from dealing with a preventable cancer? The chemo, the surgery, the lives, dreams, and contributions to society cut short?

What if I told you we could spare an entire community and generation from added asthma and cancer?

What if I also told you that by doing so, you'd save some $3.5-10 BILLION of your own money, all while helping maintain property values in the region, which ultimately influences the value of your own property?

If our legislators vote to end funding for the poorly planned, already 150% over-budget Columbia River Crossing (CRC), that is exactly what will happen. Stopping the CRC is a no brainer: it's a win, win, win (win, win).

The arguments proponents like to cite for the CRC have already been disproven, but above and beyond the facts, this mega-project, which would go down in history as the largest expenditure on a single project in Oregon ever, stands in direct opposition to our values and priorities as a community and as a state. I refuse to believe that Oregonians do not value one another, that we will just stand aside as entire communities face destruction of their cohesiveness and damage to the health of those most vulnerable. All without creating any real, sustainable jobs for the region.

It seems the waving of potential federal dollars has mired many in arguing details. We've failed to step back and consider the bigger picture; we've forgotten to ask 'why' and 'how'.

The deficiencies of our current bridges, our crumbling roads, our lack of adequate and speedy public transit are rooted in our mistakes of the past; of building too much and too big without thought of future maintenance or systemic planning. Our unsustainable binges of the past have come to roost, and you cannot fix a problem by repeating it. One $3.5-10 billion, 100-year-commitment highway expansion, and then what is left when one of the more than 2 DOZEN bridges in worse structural condition needs a massive overhaul?

How much longer can we ignore the fact that the CRC is economically infeasible?

And what will we do when this project runs even further over-budget (pdf), as research indicates it will (pdf), to the tune of multiple billions of dollars?

We are Oregon. We're darn smart. We have the luxury of seeing these projects failing in other states, like the 'Big Dig' in Boston. We have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others without incurring the debt and damage of making the mistake ourselves.

Just because we can doesn't mean we should. Just because it's what we have done doesn't mean it's what we should continue to do. We know better. We should demand that our government does better.

In the face of overwhelming evidence of the unsustainability -- economically, environmentally, socially -- of our bloated, short-sighted, reactionary infrastructure projects, will we choose to keep our heads down, ignore the damage to our reddened budgets and community health, and push full-steam ahead because, hey, we already blew $150 million, what's blowing another several billion?

This is an opportunity to change course, creating economic competitiveness and prosperity for our entire state and future generations by investing in our FUTURE, not projects that literally pave us into our past. We have the opportunity to spare lives and dollars, to invest the money we save into meaningful job creation and the future of infrastructure. Imagine if we spent money of this magnitude on high-speed rail throughout the region? The possibilities are incredibly inspiring.

We are Oregon. Our predecessors looked to the west because they knew there had to be more, that there had to be a better way. They believed in the promise of innovation, the promise of defining rules and norms for ourselves.

We are Oregon. We believe in the values of individuality and investing in our communities, not bankrupting them with poor policy. We know that we're all in this together, that this isn't the 1950's or the 1990's, that we cannot place the burdens of bloated budgets, increased congestion, childhood asthma, and preventable cancer on yet another generation. Large infrastructure spending can make sense, but in everyway one gauges value and meaningful expenditure, the CRC is a failing proposition, and Oregon isn't buying it.

This is not conservative or liberal. Don't let the $150 million advertising campaign fool you into thinking this project is about mobility or safety. This is about citizens having the right to choose how their money is spent, having a say in shaping an innovative long-term vision for the future of our region, and ensuring we have a voice in our own government.

It's common sense. It's arithmetic. Regardless of your reason for opposing the CRC, one thing is for sure: Oregon cannot afford this poorly planned project, and our communities don't want it.

We're Oregon. We can do better. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to future generations.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just an RN, a Woman, and an average citizen.

Want to be a part of the conversation? Come make sure legislators hear from the community. A hearing on the CRC takes place in Salem on Monday, 2/18 starting at 3pm.

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