About a dozen demonstrators gathered today at the Portland Expo Center to protest the first meeting of a panel appointed by the governors of Washington and Oregon to review the Columbia River Crossing .

Protesters, organized by Stop the CRC Coalition, handed out sheets of paper that called the panel a "rubber stamp." The implication of course with those handouts, which were stamped red "A-OK," being that the panel had already reached a conclusion in favor of the proposed 12-lane, $3.6-billion dollar bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver.

One protester carried a sign that said, "We are the experts of our own transportation needs."

"How independent can a panel be that is selected by those in charge of the project?" asked demonstrator Jonathon Irwin of Portland.

Irwin was also concerned that the review process didn't call for enough public input. He pointed out that the only meeting for public feedback, scheduled for 7 pm tonight at the Expo Center, was only made known a few days before.

Panel chair Tom Warne, former director of Utah's transportation department, insisted his group had no pre-determined conclusion.

"We are independent," Warne said. "We don't yet know the results of the panel."

CRC independent panel