July 9th, 2008 5:33 pm | by COREY PEIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall, Multnomah County

Testimony On CRC Looks Unlikely To Change Minds


It'll be disappointing if this scene isn't on TV tonight:
"You cannot stop the CRC, mortal!" shouted "Count Exxon," a young man dressed up in a black Grim Reaper's robe (and sandals). He was standing today outside Portland City Hall, and addressing no one in particular.
Nearby, a few young women in black T-shirts with "Oil Enforcement Agency" printed on the back hand out citations to the "oil worshiping cult," and try vainly to explain the concept to passersby.
"We don't get it," says a woman passing by the scene. "What are you protesting?"
The Columbia River Crossing, said Alicia Ng with the OEA/Cascadia Rising Tide.
"How does this relate to the new I-5 bridge?" said the passer-by, watching in utter confusion as a dominatrix gently whipped a few "oil supporters" who are chanting and circling a mock oil derrick on the sidewalk.
Er, yeah...
Inside the City Council chambers, commissioners were set to lend their approval to the dreaded CRC, a controversial $4.2 billion new bridge over the Columbia. A whopping 79 people—representing everybody from the Teamsters to Schnitzer Steel to Powell's Books—signed up to testify on the matter...and they were still yammering away, repeating arguments that have already been made, as of this writing.
(Pro: We need a new bridge. "Freight mobility" is good. It'll be the greenest thing ever. Con: It's a huge waste of money, not that green and won't help that much with traffic congestion.)
Metro Councilor Robert Liberty made the most concise and eloquent argument against the proposed bridge.
For starters, Liberty said, the state and the feds aren't likely to pay for the whole thing.
And if the 12-lane freeway bridge does move forward, Oregon's Congressional delegation will be pressured to put it first in line for federal transportation funding, ahead of light rail and other projects. Which would, to Liberty, "seem to me a reversal of what our national reputation has been."
After offering testimony, Liberty told WWire that the CRC's continued political support was a result of bureaucratic "groupthink" within the Washington and Oregon transportation departments.
And he said the lack of opposition to a flawed project by local elected officials doesn't demonstrate real leadership.
"People say, 'I can vote for it, [because] it won't get built.' We can do better than that," Liberty said.
Liberty put the odds at the bridge's actual construction at 50-50. The Portland City Council doesn't have the final say either way. But direct council opposition would make the CRC much less likely to be funded.
Also in the audience: Council candidates Charles Lewis and Amanda Fritz.
Lewis said he'd vote to support the CRC. Fritz, who has raised questions about the project, said she'd wait until all the public testimony had been given to make up her mind.

(Meantime, here's what the EPA thinks.)
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