A HANDFUL OF progressive Oregon and Washington groups announced a bold new idea for the controversial Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bridge last week: Throw it out.
The five groups calling for an "immediate restart" of the massive bridge plan want the transportation project to allocate $4 million to an independent analysis of what to do about the clogged traffic corridor. Washington and Oregon have so far allocated $131.07 million to the bridge project, and their state departments of transportation drew up the current plan to replace the six-lane bridge with a $4.2 billion 12-lane design.
"To spend $4 million to see if we can do better doesn't seem like that crazy of an idea," says Mara Gross, policy director of Coalition for a Livable Future, which is demanding "CRC 2.0" along with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Environment Oregon, Environment Washington, and Upstream Public Health.
"Departments of transportation build roads. It's what they do," Gross says. "There may be solutions that aren't just about roads." She explains that a "not just roads" solution to the daily traffic jams on the I-5 bridge could focus on the fact that an estimated 60,000 Vancouver-to-Portland commuters cross the bridge daily. "Maybe economic development in Vancouver is part of it," says Gross.
The call to draw up an entirely new plan for the bridge comes after an increasing number of local, state, and federal politicians heaped criticism on the 12-lane design in recent months. In September, Mayor Sam Adams rescinded his support for the current design, saying the project had to shrink to become affordable.
"We're at a point in the project where we can take a step back, take a deep breath, and re-envision the process," says Tim Leavitt, who was elected mayor of Vancouver last week on a platform of scaling back the bridge and nixing tolls. "What's become painfully clear is we've got a project that's unaffordable."
Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder does not think it is a good idea to spend $4 million drawing up a new plan for the bridge after Oregon and Washington have already spent nearly $80 million and countless hours getting to the current design.
"I think this project has had enough study," he says.