Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

It’s not a crossing, it’s (just) a bridge

People often ask me whether I’m tired of talking, writing and blogging about the Columbia River Crossing project.

I’m not.

Fact is we haven’t covered the CRC much in the past couple months, not since local leaders on both sides of the Columbia River received this tart reply from governors Ted Kulongoski and Chris Gregoire (and I’m paraphrasing): “It’s on. Get back to work.”

Dissent has been crucial to the CRC process. That includes the concerns of Hayden Island residents living underneath the bridge, Rose Quarter merchants concerned about the I-5 bottleneck sure to land on their doorstep and yes, Clark County commuters who already pay steep Oregon income taxes and are wary of adding tolls into the mix.

And yet, the CRC process seems hamstrung not merely on these crucial issues, but on empty phrases like “shared community values” and nebulous concepts like “pride of ownership.”

Adding insult to injury in this 15-year-old CRC planning labyrinth, the Oregonian published an editorial on May 1 decrying the CRC as being “treated almost entirely as an engineering project,” going on to slam decisions made a decade ago regarding height restrictions for airplanes taking-off and landing at Pearson Field and attempts to improve access to Hayden Island from I-5.

Reading this editorial had me scratching my head: I mean, aren’t all bridges primarily ‘engineering’ projects? The last time I checked, the CRC was a bridge, and as far as I understand bridges to work, means that they are designed, i.e. engineered, not to fall down.

Given all the confusion about what the CRC actually is, I’m going to instead focus on what this estimated $2.6 billion project is not.

The CRC isn’t an antidote to global warming, a solution to suburban sprawl or a test case for the latest urban planning theory picked up during a semester at PSU.

Here’s what the project is: a job creator, a commerce builder and a link connecting the region to the rest of the West Coast.

Now planners are “racing” to make the deadline to ensure that millions in federal funding committed to the CRC does not evaporate. And if the process ultimately fails, it would be easier to take if it were due to a problem in the bridge’s design.

But to have hundreds of construction workers left jobless and the region stuck with a lift-bridge for another decade because this engineering project’s failure to achieve a lofty, unattainable ideal? That would be the real tragedy.


bill said...

Well said ! I also have proposed to add a Park Roof to the CRC. The Park Roof will pay for itself by absorbing the storm water that drives roadway pollution runoff. Instead of a expensive treatment facility , we get a World Class Park at the front doorstep of Vancouver. Think of business and jobs created in Vancouver by the influx of Park visitors from the region and the world. Please visit the link below for my Artworks of the Concept.