My CRC Letter to the Legislature

Sent to my representatives and to committee staff to include in the record for the funding bills:

Representative Greenlick and Senator Steiner Hayward,

As the joint committee begins consideration of funding bills for the Columbia River Crossing (recently renamed the I-5 Bridge Replacement) I am writing to you as my representatives to share my concerns about this project.

Having served on Metro’s Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee (TPAC) and Metro Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) and now on Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission, I have been a keen observer of our regional transportation system and plans. My belief is that this project took a wrong turn in 2008 when the set of project alternatives was narrowed, and more reasonably scaled approaches comparable to the “Common Sense Alternative” were discarded. Since that time, $100M of additional planning funds have been expended to try to justify those wrong decisions against mounting evidence that a facility of this scale is not needed and likely cannot be financed without grave impacts on other fiscal priorities.

Since 2008 it has become clear that actual traffic in this corridor has decreased in some years (even before the recession) and is certainly not growing on anything like the trajectory that was used to justify the bridge design. And experience in the Seattle area has shown that tolling revenue projections have been overly optimistic. While I would dearly love to see High Capacity Transit extended across the Columbia, why would we build a bridge that is bigger than we need and costs more than we afford?

Through my work on the Planning Commission I have become very familiar with Hayden Island and the aspirations of the community there. This project will impose massive structures on the island, and the “Interim Construction Phase” (possibly all that will ever be built) will frustrate the community’s desire for a main street that connects the neighborhoods on either side of the bridge.

In my view the only responsible thing to do is require a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and re-examine the faulty choices made in 2008. I urge you to approach construction funding for this project very skeptically. I am also very supportive of Representative Greenlick’s legislative efforts to impose sensible conditions on the release of any construction funds, including a Coast Guard permit for the bridge and an investment-grade analysis of tolling revenue.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Chris Smith

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