Friday, December 4, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Build the CRC, already

2012 isn’t just the apocalyptic end-date on the 5,125-year-long Mayan long calendar. It’s also the earliest work on the Columbia River Crossing project can begin – that is, if a miracle occurs in downtown Portland this afternoon.

As I write, 10 members of the Project Sponsors Council are meeting to take comments and suggestions, all in the attempt to forestall a vote CRC backers are afraid they might lose.

There’s no doubt: the scaled-down $2.6 billion project is in trouble, the victim of budget-squeezed local and state governments, a divisive “no-tolls” Vancouver mayoral campaign and plenty of angst from Portland-based alternative transit advocates.

Strangely enough, lost in all the wrangling is an essential sector of our regional economy, the one with the most to lose if the CRC does not go ahead as planned: freight haulers and the businesses from Mexico to Canada depending on their services.

Let’s get real. The real reason for a replacement bridge isn’t so that Portland bicyclists can have a beautiful view of the river, or to cut 15 minutes of drive time between Hazel Dell and downtown Portland – though both of those perks would be a nice by-product of a brand new span.

The real reason the governors of Washington and Oregon met at the banks of the Columbia River seven years ago was to find a way to facilitate commerce between two economically interconnected and interdependent states.

That’s it.

Instead the project has been hijacked by the interests of light-rail advocates and car-bound commuters alike, bloating the CRC like a piñata stuffed with too much cheap candy.

At this moment, the only topic that should be up for discussion among the PSC, which includes outgoing Vancouver Mayor Pollard, mayor-elect Leavitt and Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council vice-chair Steve Stuart, are ways to build a replacement bridge as quickly, cheaply and safely as possible.

The time for bickering between Oregon and Washington, Clark County and Portland, is over.

The fight now should turn to the feds, with both sides of the river focused on securing more funding for a project essential to the economic well-being of both states for decades to come.


Ron Edwards said...

It is about time that straight talk like yours reaches the masses. The bridge conversation is a lot like the feds health care debate where special interests place more stock on their own aggenda than the resolution.

Anonymous said...

Leavitt has been saying it the whole time. The bridge is a Fed project. Keep the focus on the feds and not local funding.