This is excerpted from Councilor Liberty’s February newsletter.
The Columbia River Crossing Study: We Must Consider More Alternatives Than Just a New 10 or 12 Lane Freeway Bridge That May Cost Taxpayers $2 Billion
There are very few regional decisions with greater consequences for us than whether to spend $2 billion of taxpayer funds to demolish the current Interstate 5 bridges across the Columbia River and replace them with a 10 to 12-lane new freeway bridge.
After many months of study, this alternative (with light rail and bus rapid transit variants) and a no action alternative, are the only ones recommended for further analysis by the staff of the bi-state Columbia River Crossing Task Force. (More information: www.columbiarivercrossing.org.)
Spending $2 billion on a huge new freeway bridge will shape the pattern of growth in northern Clark County, affect job growth throughout the region, have noise, air and water quality impacts in downtown Vancouver and North Portland, raise and lower land prices nearby and pose basic questions about how 10 or 12 lanes of traffic over the Columbia will merge into the 4 lanes of I-5 at the Rose Quarter. Last, but not least, it will use up much of the limited transportation funds that could be used on other projects in the region.
Does it mean this alternative should not be studied at all?
Of course not.
In fact, a big new freeway bridge is definitely is worth studying … as one alternative among many.
The mistake is to continue the study with just one alternative. The only possible conclusion for that kind of study will be the demolition of the old bridge and spending up to $2 billion on a new freeway bridge. I am very concerned that future generations may come to regard the bridge as a symbol of our generation’s lack of imagination, our disregard for fiscal responsibility and our indifference to global warming.
This region, of all regions in the nation, deserves to be offered many more choices to study. These options should include many other alternatives that were not studied by the Task Force because they fell outside the narrowly defined geography and statement of purpose and need for the project. (Documents laying out some of my concerns about the Task Force study and recommendations as well as some suggestions for other alternatives that should be considered will be posted to my website soon: www.metro-region.org/article.cfm?articleID=12542.)
Because the Metro Council is part of the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region, it will ultimately be called upon to pass judgment on this project. In effect, we are being asked at this early stage to perform $2 billion worth of due diligence.
Metro Council President David Bragdon has created an opportunity for Councilors and the public to express their views on this regionally significant project.
On Tuesday, February 13 at 2 p.m. the Council will hold an informal work session on this subject and discuss possible resolutions expressing the views of the Council.
The results of that discussion, including possible resolutions, will be the subject of a public hearing and Council action at its meeting that begins at 2 p.m. Thursday, February 22.
On February 27 the Columbia River Task Force is scheduled to take action on the staff recommendation.
I invite you to attend Metro’s work session and to use your opportunity to testify at the Council meeting on February 22.