The Columbia River Crossing: Action Needed

The Columbia River Crossing is a proposed transportation infrastructure mega-project, the biggest and most expensive transportation infrastructure investment in our region’s history. The Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods has actively followed the project over the past years and has concluded that the official proposal is flawed and would negatively impact our City and neighborhoods. NECN has held two community forums, met with elected officials, attended planning meetings and written letters to oppose the Columbia River Crossing. Letters and other information resources are included in this post, and more can be found on our Land Use and Transportation webpage. Right now, in the 2013 Legislative Session, there is a push for approving funding for the CRC proposal. NECN, along with organizational partners and grassroots activists, is speaking out to Legislators on the downsides of this costly and risky highway project and to firmly oppose all funding efforts for the CRC.

Thank you to everyone who testified and contacted their Senators and Representatives regarding HB 2800 and Monday’s (2/18/13) Committee hearing. The bill has moved out of Committee and could be up for a floor vote soon. Read coverage of NECN’s testimony here. More coverage of recent steps by the legislature is available here.

Action is still needed. Write a letter to your legislator. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors and ask that they take a stand against the Columbia River Crossing.

    • Write and call: Contact information for North and NE Portland Senators and Representatives is at the bottom of this post. Within NECN’s neighborhoods, Senators Chip Shields and Jackie Dingfelder need to hear from you.

NECN’s Points of Concern:

    • The Columbia River Crossing is much more than a bridge, it is a highway expansion project. Expanding Interstate 5 north of Portland will bring more vehicles into North Portland. To the south of the CRC, I-5 narrows to four lanes in the Rose Quarter area which will result in cut-through traffic on our neighborhood streets. NECN is greatly concerned with this direct impact to our streets.
    • Too costly and financially risky. The financial plan put forth does not protect Oregon taxpayers from cost overruns, and mega-projects like this always cost more than budgeted. The toll revenue projections are unrealistic due to changing traffic patterns on I-5, and taxpayers will have to make up that difference as well. Moreover, appropriating $450 million dollars for the project would significantly limit future transportation spending.
    • Planners have completely failed to consider less expensive alternatives for the I-5 corridor. See below for information on what else has been suggested, including a video on the “Common Sense Alternative.” The official planning process for the CRC did not adequately consider options such as the CSA.
    • Jobs: Alternative projects would likely provide more local jobs and could be started as soon as the CRC, if not before.

What is the CRC?

The official project team working on the Columbia River Crossing project is known as the integrated project staff and is led by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Washington Department of Transportation. The work of this group is on their website at ColumbiaRiverCrossing.org.

For a general overview of the mega-project and underlying issues, Portlander Spencer Boomhower created a 10-minute video that is an easy to comprehend introduction:

In April 2011, Mr. Boomhower released related video focused on an alternative proposal known as the “Common Sense Alternative” or CSA.

The Common Sense Alternative has been developed by George M. Crandall and Jim Howell.


How much will the CRC cost?

The CRC proposal officially claims a price tag of $3.6 billion. Portland economist Joe Cortright has analysed the CRC financial plan and found significant problems with the official estimate. With the likelihood of cost over runs and interest, the true cost of the project will be much higher.

From the Executive Summary:

This report analyzes the forecast accuracy, financial costs, and financial risks associated with the proposed Columbia River Crossing Project. It reaches three principal conclusions: 1) the traffic forecasts on which project finances are based are inaccurate and unreliable; 2) the thirty-year cost of building and operating the CRC will be at least double the $4 billion estimated and could reach $10 billion or more; 3) the project will necessitate a huge increase in bonded public debt and poses substantial additional financial risks including mega-project cost overruns.

Download Joe Cortright’s full CRC Economic Analysis.


What has NECN done to oppose the CRC?

February 2010: The NECN Board took a stance against the CRC project as it stood at that time. The letter is available here, PDF format.

March 2011: In conjunction with the Concordia Neighborhood Association, NECN hosted a public forum on the Columbia River Crossing. View minutes and statements submitted from this event. Neighborhood Notes also reported on our CRC Forum, read the article here.

April 2011: NECN sent a letter in opposition to House Joint Memorial 22. HJM 22 asked Congress to fund the Columbia River Crossing project.

Later in 2011, NECN opposed Metro’s Land Use decision to approve the CRC. Letter to Metro: Columbia River Crossing Land Use Final Order vote. In November 2011, NECN appealed Metro’s decision to the Oregon Supreme Court. Read more on the appeal in Neighborhood Notes.

In 2012, NECN, along with the Coalition for a Livable Future and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, filed a Federal lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration over the CRC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. Lawsuit is available here, or read about it in The Columbian.


Other Resources

The Coalition for a Livable Future’s CRC page contains many valuable articles and resources. View the page here or go straight to the documents page.

Former Metro Councilor Robert Liberty convened a Citizens Panel of Alternatives to the official CRC proposal. This generated 14 short proposals, by a variety of people, some with professional engineering experience, some without. Read the proposals here.

Portland Afoot’s page on the CRC.

Video of Joe Cortright’s testimony to the Portland Planning Commission is available on SmarterBridge.com, click here.


Legislator Contact Information:

Senator Chip Shields, District 22
Phone: 503-986-1722
Address: 900 Court St NE, S-421, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Sen.ChipShields@state.or.us

Senator Jackie Dingfelder, District 23
Phone: 503-986-1723
Address: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Sen.JackieDingfelder@state.or.us

Representative Lew Frederick District: 43
Phone: 503-986-1443
Address: 900 Court St NE, H-276, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Rep.LewFrederick@state.or.us

Representative Tina Kotek District: 44
Phone: 503-986-1200
Address: 900 Court St NE, 269, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Rep.TinaKotek@state.or.us

Representative Michael Dembrow District: 45
Phone: 503-986-1445
Address: 900 Court St NE, H-487, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Rep.MichaelDembrow@state.or.us

Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer District: 46
Phone: 503-986-1446
Address: 900 Court St NE, H-281, Salem, OR, 97301
Email: Rep.AlissaKenyGuyer@state.or.us

Find other Legislator contact info here or district maps here.