Metro Council President David Bragdon, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Clark County Chairman Steve Stuart today presented governors of Washington and Oregon with a letter that casts new doubts on the future of the proposed Columbia River Crossing
bridge between Portland and Vancouver.
"Notwithstanding our stated support for a CRC project, we believe that the cost, physical and environmental elements of the project as currently proposed still impose unacceptable impacts on our communities," the elected officials wrote.
Those are strong words because the four leaders represent constituencies of potential bridge users. The CRC's decision-making body, the Project Sponsors Council,
includes the state highway departments and locally affected transit authorities. But Bragdon, Adams, Leavitt and Stuart hear the most directly from project critics.
The CRC team reduced the project's price-tag late last year from $4.2 billion to $3.6 billion. Still, critics contend the design neither meets carbon reduction goals
nor is financially viable
The tentative financing for the project requires federal and state contributions and local payment in the form of tolls. Congressional representatives from both sides of the Columbia have repeatedly expressed concerns about whether federal money will be available; and the newly elected Leavitt has expressed opposition to tolls, a position that has a lot of historical weight in Clark County.
In their letter, the electeds requested a joint meeting with the governors
"as soon as scheduling will allow."
They expressed several concerns, including a desire for greater local control over a bi-state process that is spending $1.5 million per month; greater assurance that the CRC won't cannibalize other planned transportation projects; greater assurance of a realistic financing plan; money to hire independent experts to represent local governments and to test CRC assumptions about future travel, land use and environmental impacts; and, a "renewed commitment" to Hayden Island residents, whose home turf stands to get butchered in the current plan.
"The CRC stands at a critical juncture," the electeds wrote. "To ensure development of a viable Columbia River Crossing, we respectfully request a stronger voice for our local governments in decisions about the project."
Anna Richter Taylor, a spokesman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, says her boss welcomes a chance to meet the local leaders and is "open to new idea that would make the project better. That said, he really wants to see the project move forward on a time-line so as not to miss any federal funding opportunities."
The CRC Project Sponsors hold their next public meeting Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Washington Department of Transportation office at 11018 NE 51st Circle in Vancouver.