An "Oregonian" in Vancouver's Perspective on the CRC Boondoggle

Jonathan Poisner

Although my heart is an Oregonian, I’m writing this from my home in Vancouver, across the river in Washington. After getting married late in 2009, I moved to Vancouver so my wife could continue to walk to her work in Vancouver while I did consulting work from home.

While I spend most days working from home, I’m definitely in Portland a lot. That means I spend considerable time on I-5 coming to or from Vancouver.

A lot of that time is in “traffic” that’s backed up. So I’ve had considerable time to ponder the so-called “Columbia River Crossing” and its potential impact.

(I hate the term Columbia River Crossing because it’s actually a 5 mile long freeway widening and interchange reconstruction project that happens to include a bridge crossing the Columbia).

I moved to Vancouver an opponent of the project. Regularly experiencing I-5 rush hour traffic patterns first-hand has only strengthened my view that the project is a boondoggle that needs to die.

From a lover of Oregon’s perspective, the project represents a massive shift of wealth across the river to Clark County. And it will have a significant negative impact on the region’s ability to promote sustainable land use, transportation, and economic development.

Others have written extensively about why the project is so noxious, so I won’t go into here. Some posts for those who want more:

Out of Control Costs

Messy politics

A video raising many unanswered questions and negative impacts

Geeking out to the numbers with Joe Cortwright

Some of my friends who don’t like the Portland/Vancouver I-5 Highway Widening Project That Happens to Contain a Bridge tell me the battle is already won. Why do I keep posting about it on my facebook page? They argue the money isn’t there to pay for it in Oregon, Washington, or the Federal government.

Which brings us to a scheduled public hearing tomorrow in the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee. House Joint Memorial 22 would represent the legislature’s formal plea to the Federal government to fund its share of the bridge, but without Oregon or Washington having yet committed their shares.

Back in my days actively lobbying the Legislature, I used to think of memorials as throwaways. They weren’t worth battling because they have no force of law.

But this memorial is different and needs to be fought as the major threat that it is. Let there be no mistake – if the Federal government moves the project forward at the Oregon Legislature’s request, the pressure on Oregon to come up with its share of the money will be intense.

And another vote of the Oregon Legislature won’t be necessary. The Oregon Department of Transportation could conceivably empty its piggy bank of available funds to fill the Oregon portion of the project – and advocates for alternative spending of that money both in Portland and around the state will have no recourse.

If Oregon does go down this road, future residents of the region will have only one vote with which to hold legislators accountable – HMJ 22.

Legislators (and organizations) who purport to be advocates for sustainable economic development and environmental responsibility need to live up to their rhetoric and oppose it.

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    As I see it, lots of federal money for the project may become available if Oregon comes up with its share. As Jonathan notes, the pressure will then be intense for Oregon to come up with its share. The cries will be Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! and more Jobs!

    That we could spend the federal money much better will not matter. It will be CRC or nothing. Jobs or no jobs.

    We will probably get our priorities all wrong. We may be laying off teachers while building that boondoggle of a highway/bridge project.

    And, sadly, this skewing of our priorities will be largely the responsibility of Democrats, national and state.

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    Is the current CRC a problem? Yes. Did they take public hearings to ask for what people needed? Yes. Did they come up with a mixed-use plan, one that would involve light rail and bicycle lanes to help take car pressure off? Yes. Did they scrap that idea for a huge, more expensive, car-only project? Yes.

    Until they get serious about the bridge, I'll keep saying no.

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    Could you please expand on these two premises:

    (1) "the project represents a massive shift of wealth across the river to Clark County."

    (2) "it will have a significant negative impact on the region’s ability to promote sustainable land use, transportation, and economic development."

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    FYI this committee is in session until 3pm, and you can watch it live here, in hearing room D:

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    Wherever we end up, let's not forget the folks who got us here. These are the folks who kept approving out of whack budgets and proposed "iconic" designs that were infeasible. Now the OR Leg has finally weighed in at the 11th hour.

    <h2>If this is how we do business and do politics in this state, it's no wonder our economy lags so far behind our neighbors.</h2>

    Co-Chairs Henry Hewitt, Past Chair, Oregon Transportation Commission Steve Horenstein, Chair, WSU-Vancouver Advisory Council and board member of Vancouver National Trust

    Departments of Transportation Matthew Garrett, Director, Oregon Department of Transportation Paula Hammond, Secretary, Washington Department of Transportation Cities Sam Adams, Mayor, City of Portland Jeanne Harris, Council member, City of Vancouver Metropolitan Planning Organizations Rex Burkholder, Metro Council Steve Stuart, Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council Board of Directors Transit Agencies Neil McFarlane, General Manager, TriMet Tim Leavitt, C-TRAN Board of Directors

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