Columbia River Crossing Project is Rejected By State Land Use Board

The push to build the massive Columbia River Crossing project hit the wall Thursday when a state land use board said Metro failed to follow the law when it gave its blessing to the freeway bridge.

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) said Metro didn't have the authority to grant its approval from the $3.5 billion freeway project when it used an obscure 1996 law aimed at siting light rail lines.

Metro ignored the fact that the bridge itself is outside the region's urban growth boundary, LUBA ruled, and that the regional government didn't have authority to approve it.

LUBA turned back most of the other arguments, brought by CRC opponents, that Metro improperly stretched the 1996 law to shove a massive freeway project through a loophole designed to help speed along light rail projects. [See "All Aboard!" WW, Aug. 3, 2011].

Metro officials, through the agency's website, say the problem is a technical one that can be fixed by simply expanding the region's urban growth boundary after the fact to include the bridge.

"This is a major setback," says Michael Lilly, an attorney for Plaid Pantries Inc., which opposes the project. "Metro may say this is just a minor fix, but you have to ask why if this is so minor they didn't do it the right way the first time."

WW has revealed serious problems with the Columbia River Crossing project: The bridge won't fix the traffic problems as promised; state officials used faulty estimates to justify building it; officials have greatly exaggerated the number of jobs it will create; and its planning costs exploded when officials allowed a major contractor to more than double the size of its contract with scant oversight and public review.

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