Time to Lead on the CRC – Yes, This Means You

Evan Manvel

Which Portland mayoral candidate will be the first to come out against the boondoggle which, if it worked as planned, would create an eight-hour daily traffic jam at the Rose Quarter?

As previously summarized, the CRC highway mega-project is facing an avalanche of problems. It’s short by hundreds of millions of dollars, the highway departments have no credible idea of how much traffic there will be, and proponents have been caught misleading the public about the underlying facts. The current plan appears to be to begin building the mega-project and hope money starts growing on trees.

With the tidal wave of negative press coverage, there’s an opening for political candidates to demonstrate leadership. Candidates could take the lead on transforming the current CRC mess into something workable and affordable, appealing to a wide range of constituencies: fiscal conservatives, planning and transportation leaders, conservationists, good government types, residents adjacent to the project, and most importantly, the huge swath of the voters who desperately want our elected officials to demonstrate vision and a willingness to speak truth to power (see Stanley Greenberg’s piece from last weekend).

Which Portland mayoral candidate will be the first to come out against the boondoggle which, if it worked as planned, would create an eight-hour daily traffic jam at the Rose Quarter?

Which candidate for Oregon’s first Congressional district will deliver the message that we can find better uses of our limited political capital and federal transportation dollars than flying $200-an-hour consultants in from Germany?

Who will say it’s simply irresponsible to spend billions and burden our children with over 30 years of debt service for a few huge highway interchanges?

The list of local elected officials and candidates who’ve opposed the CRC in its current form has been relatively short – most notably Robert Liberty, Bob Stacey, Carl Hosticka, and Amanda Fritz. But dozens of legislators from both parties have expressed concerns, despite an avalanche of lobbying for the highway mega-project. Leadership has been provided by Reps. Jefferson Smith, Katie Eyre Brewer, Ben Cannon, Mitch Greenlick, and Lew Frederick, and Sen. Chris Telfer. Unlike most other elected officials, legislators actually have to find project funding.

Most candidates in the upcoming elections are working to appeal to those who support a clean, sustainable economy and region. Finding a new path on the CRC boondoggle would demonstrate impressive leadership, as it's the most expensive public works project in the region's history.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t a trade-off between the current CRC plan and doing nothing.

The current mega-project isn’t affordable or credible, and is hugely divisive. You can oppose the current plan and support taking real action to improve traffic flow in the corridor, create construction jobs, and help freight movement. We can build a local bridge to Hayden Island and upgrade the downstream rail bridge, for example. We can invest in seismic improvements across the region.

There are a host of voters who believe we can do better, as a region, than the hugely expensive, enormously risky highway expansion plan. We’ll respond to a leader who can bring us together and find a solution we can support.

So who will step up and provide that bold leadership? Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici, Brad Witt, Rob Cornilles, Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, or, hell, Max Brumm?

And for those who want to demonstrate you’ll support candidates who provide such leadership, give some money or time to Metro Council candidate Bob Stacey, who has been speaking out for a better solution for years.

Update: A friend pointed me to what Charlie Hales told Willamette Week in June: If he were mayor now, he would not support the CRC in its current form. He believes a new bridge is necessary and light rail portion critical. That leaves me curious to know more.

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    Given, what looks to me, the cowardice of the Metro council, I do not expect much straight talk from CD-1 candidates. Perhaps I will be surprised.

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    The other leader whose silence on the topic of the CRC has been deafening is Earl Blumenauer.

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    Although he's not yet a candidate for Portland mayor, Jefferson Smith spoke at a rally in opposition to the CRC (and he was very funny, as usual: he began his remarks with, "My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!"- the movie was current at the time).

    And, Amanda Fritz has been the only City commissioner in opposition. I wonder what Mary Nolan's take is?

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    This kid makes a damn good case and an excellent point. Unfortunately I live in Vancouver so I'm ineligible to vote for him but damn, it this bridge nonsense have been a thorn in my side for a long time. $130 million has been spent so far and not 1 yard of concrete has been poured. I ask what's wrong with this picture??????

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    Charlie Hales has already come out against the CRC it it's current form...


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      Whoops, I see your update now. Keep up on your reading, though, Evan!

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        Yes - thanks for holding my feet to the fire! I'm a little peeved at myself for not catching that statement earlier.

        I looked at the candidates' web sites, try to read the news, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook, as well as talk to their supporters. But that back-forth with the Willamette Week eluded me.

        Right now, the "I don't want the CRC but I want a new bridge and light rail" stance leaves a reader confused - or reading into it what they want.

        Does it mean a candidate will push the Governor, ODOT, and Congress to skip the huge highway interchanges and 4.5 mile highway expansion, which is about half the cost of the project, and simply build the new (ugly) bridge and light rail? Or does it mean something else?

        But it's definitely at least one step in the right direction.

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