The Governor has called a blatant media stunt press conference in support of the $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing project! This can only mean one thing: a major, possibly negative decision on the big bridge must be near. Indeed, the bigwig Project Sponsors Council will meet tomorrow morning to discuss and possibly vote on the recent "refinements" ($680 million in downsizing) to the CRC.
The governor, transportation activists, environmentalists, everyone wants to know what will happen at the meeting tomorrow. BikePortland says it'll be a showdown. Here's my predictions:
1. If the project comes to a vote, Metro Council President David Bragdon will vote no. This didn't require a crystal ball, but just a phone call to Bragdon, whose opposition to the bridge has recently reached a fever-pitch. “You can’t ‘refine’ a fundamentally flawed project,” says Bragdon. “I still think there are good reasons to do a project, it just needs to be one that meets realistic demands at a price we can afford. The one that’s being proposed is just not viable, but we can come up with a version that does work.”
2. So will Mayor Sam Adams. "He wants better information on what impacts this project and its refinement will have in Portland," confirms Adams' spokesman Roy Kauffman via email. "He remains concerned that Vancouver will not support tolls necessary to help pay for the project and prevent gridlock in downtown Portland." I talked to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's Michelle Poyourow (who walked off the CRC project in September) about the upcoming meeting and summed up the pressure on Adams: "This is the last opportunity for our elected officials to stand up and do what's right... this is the point where we want to see them stand up and stop playing along with this failed project."
3. So committee leaders will maneuver to avoid a vote. Bragdon and Adams are only two of ten people on the committee and the others will do anything to avoid getting two of the most important players on the $3.6 billion project to voice undeniable lack of support for the current plan. Though the committee is supposed to make a recommendation on whether they support the 10-lane design, the group will figure out some way to avoid a vote to approve or deny the design. Instead, they'll pussyfoot around an up-or-down vote and instead send the design back for more refinements. All talk, no action, no controversy.
4. Pro-bridge leaders will present the situation as having only one question: "To CRC or not to CRC?" They'll say, basically, either you support the bloated design we're looking at or you support doing nothing at all. There is no chance of creating a better option or investing $4 million or so in an independent analysis to come up with a better idea than a new big freeway.
5. Big bridge-backers will write off the opposition protest outside as an unrealistic, ragtag crowd who haven't presented any real alternatives to the 10-lane option. They'll say we need to break ground on this project now to create jobs, jobs, jobs and that all the funding will fall into line very soon. Oh, sorry. That's three predictions. It's just becomes clear when you've heard it all before.