Oregon and Washington are arguing about how much of the $135M that the Feds want to be repaid will be assigned to each state, and when repayments will begin.
In the open thread, I mentioned that a Clark County legislator (Republican Liz Pike) wanted to “restart” the CRC project. The Columbian has the scoop–and not surprisingly, Rep. Pike’s opening bid is to get rid of light rail. Obviously, such a proposal isn’t going to be acceptable to those of us in Oregon–a state of affairs which was rather confusing to the folks in the combox, mostly Vancouverites, and mostly opposed to MAX expansion (but more than eager to have a wider freeway).
Part of the reason the debate gets so heated–and there’s plenty of bashing of Vancouverites that goes on in Oregon (including, unfortunately, in our combox), is that the two sides don’t understand each other and empathize with each other. Rural Clark County (and Clackamas County) is full of people that don’t really care to live in urban environments–thinking them to be nasty, crowded, and full of crime. (Sometimes such attitudes are informed by racism, though certainly not always). That people who live in Portland may like it the way it presently is, and may view freeway expansion as a threat to urban living, does not commute. Of course, the reverse is also true–many Portlanders like to snark about “Vantucky”, and engage in all sorts of stereotyping about “white trash” and such, and can’t imagine that someone might actually prefer to live in Battle Ground or Woodland (or for that matter, Canby or Molalla or Banks), completely dependent on the automobile, and far away from the action here in the city. Many people who live in rural or semi-rural areas like it that way, and are terrorized by the thought of waking up one morning and finding that the Big City has come out to them. Right or wrong (and certainly, a LRT line to Clark College poses little threat of upzoning in Battle Ground), people on both sides of the river fear change, and often see “foreign” infrastructure as a threat, not as a benign (let alone beneficial) improvement.
Metro staff reported to JPACT this morning (a meeting of local elected officials who pass judgement on regional transportation policy) that the Columbia River Crossing would remain in the version of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) being updated as we speak.
The rationale is that the RTP designation is not for a specific project design (the one that just died) but for the requirements that motivated the project (e.g., we still need better and safer connectivity to Hayden, we still want reliable freight travel and transit across the river). This is not necessarily a bad thing. Elements of the “Common Sense Solution” could eventually qualify for funding under this RTP designation.
It’s a little bit more than theoretical for me in my role as Planning and Sustainability Commissioner. If the project were removed, it would also have to come out of Portland’s Transportation System Plan and larger Comprehensive Plan, which are now being updated, since they must be consistent with the RTP. Rejiggering those plans to remove the assumption of mobility improvements across the Columbia would be an interesting wrinkle….
The Columbia River Crossing in its current form is dead (maybe). What happens now? The 2015 Legislative Session has been touted to be the next opportunity for a big transportation package. What might that look like absent the CRC? Here are a few possibilities:
- An urban transportation agenda. Mayor Hales has suggested that perhaps now the conversation could shift to the “orphan highways” – ODOT facilities in our cities (Powell, Barbur, Sandy and 82nd for example in Portland). These should be transferred to city ownership and management, but someone needs to pay to upgrade them to current standards.
- The NE Quadrant/Rose Quarter “safety” project. A $400M freeway widening in the name of safety. But one that unlocks a lot of good land use policy in the process, so the City of Portland might get behind it.
- The beginnings of the “common sense alternatives” to the CRC, including potentially rebuilding the Marine Drive Interchange to provide Hayden Island access from that interchange, solving a lot of problems with the current ramps on the island.
- Nothing at all. After all, the $450M in bonding that the Legislature promised for the CRC didn’t actually have a repayment source identified.
What do you think? What do you hope for?
Speaker Kotek threw in the towel and the legislature adjourned without passing funding. ODOT has announced the project office will shut down by May 31.
But is the Zombridge really dead?