Oregon Senate Approves CRC Bill

The Oregon Senate today approved legislation that will move the controversial $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing to the next stage.

Prior to the bill being introduced, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) took the unusual step of admonishing visitors and spectators to mind their manners, in recognition of the passionate opposition the project has generated.

After a low-key floor discussion, however, 30 senators voted 18-11 in to approve authorizing $450 million and setting out certain conditions for the project. Republicans Tim Knopp (R-Bend); Jackie Winters (R-Salem); Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) joined the Democratic majority to pass the bill. 

"You have a unique political culture in Portland and a different culture in Clark County," said Starr, one of four co-sponsors of the bill. "You have to compromise to bring them together."

Sen. Jackie Dingfelder

Dingfelder also raised a point that many of her colleagues have ignored in their eagerness to curry favor with project proponents: that a comparable project on State Route 520 in Washington suffered a 30 percent drop in traffic in the first year after tolling began.

Such a drop on the I-5 bridge would have disastrous consequences for the project's tolling revenue projections and would shift heavy congestion to the Interstate 205 Glenn Jackson bridge. 

Oregon lawmakers will now wait to see whether the Washington Legislature commits to appropriating $450 million to match Oregon's contribution.