Hales and Smith on the CRC: Not So Different

The two mayoral candidates, State Rep. Jefferson Smith and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, turned in their responses to the Portland Business Alliance's candidate questionnaire recently.

Their entire answers are worth reading but of particular note are their responses to the PBA's question about the proposed $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project, which is a top priority for the business group.

Here are those responses (emphasis added):

4. The I-5 crossing project is the state's top transportation priority. It will improve safety, smooth freight delivery and create jobs. Do you support moving forward with this project now so we can secure more than $800 million in federal matching funds? If not, please explain why and what alternative you would pursue.
Charlie Hales It depends on what the phrase "moving forward with this project" means. I have been consistent from the beginning - I support a new span crossing the Columbia that includes light rail and bike and pedestrian mobility, and that doesn't require lifting. I don't believe the current version of the bridge is fundable, buildable and consistent with our values. But I do believe we can get to that pragmatic version of the project quickly and get it out of the planning phase and into construction. I have met with Governor Kitzhaber to discuss this project and expect to be an active partner with him in moving forward with a revised project. That's not just an intention; it's a track record. I'm the only candidate with experience working on complex projects like this and the only candidate with a deep understanding of how to get them done - on time and on budget. As Mayor, I will be part of the team that will move the project forward in a smaller, environmentally and financially-sound way that meets the initial goals - less congestion, more freight mobility and transportation options to connect Washington and Oregon with more than just cars.
Jefferson Smith No. I do not support moving forward with the current project. (And committing to start the project within the next year commits us to essentially the current project...or further consulting costs without building anything.) All four key funding streams are doubtful, and we've spent over 150 million on consultants without breaking ground. Even if we get the $800 million that is about a quarter of the funding. Meanwhile, a realistic gas tax increase in Salem doesn't seem pending, and the tolling math doesn't add up. And there is no clear answer for 1) funding to deal with the Rose Quarter as bottlenecks move south or 2) the impact on Oregon's economy of subsidizing Clark County tax migration. We need to face facts around a Plan B -- something smaller, quicker, and cheaper that prioritizes seismic safety and freight mobility. I urge the project proponents to look for maximum flexibility in the federal request so we can look at better options. I confess to be no engineer, but an intriguing option I've seen can be seen by googling "Common Sense Alternative Portland." It has the great advantage of being structurally easier to phase. Overall, let's lead with facts. I expect to have moments like this in the future -- when we disagree on projects and proposals and would benefit from getting on the same side of the table approaching common problems and objectives. I recognize that we disagree on this issue and that I was not your first or second choice in the primary. However, I deeply appreciate the critical role your members play in Portland, and after the election I look forward to working together to lead our city.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.