Five local advocacy groups issued a joint announcement today calling on the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project team to effectively restart its planning process.

The Coalition for a Livable Future, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Environment Oregon, Environment Washington and Upstream Public Health want the CRC project to allocate $4 million for an independent analysis of how to fix the clogged I-5 bridge. The plans drawn up for the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation became a 12-lane bridge with a $4.2 billion pricetag.

"This is 1/1000 of the project's cost," says Coalition for a Livable Future policy director Mara Gross. "To spend $4 million to see if we can do better doesn't seem like that crazy of an idea... Departments of transportations build roads. It's what they do. There may be solutions that aren't just about roads." Gross explains that a "not just roads" solution to the problem could focus on better land use planning and the fact that the majority of I-5 bridge users are commuters heading from Vancouver to Portland. "Maybe economic development in Vancouver is part of it. Maybe freight-only lanes are part of it," says Gross.

The groups also want the CRC to do a new environmental impact statement on whatever bridge comes out of their planning process. Numerous politicians and advocates have suggested the design of the bridge must change to fit within a smaller budget. Gross believes that a new design should equal a new environmental analysis.

“It is unacceptable in 2009 to continue to pretend it’s OK to spend billions of dollars on a project that increases global warming pollution by 32%,” says Heather Shute, Policy Advocate for Environment Washington, in the groups' press release.

As for whether "restarting" means disbanding groups that have been working for years developing the current plans for the bridge, Gross says she wants to "flesh out the idea for a little while" before going down that road.

In the current campaign for Metro Council President, Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder said that going back to the drawing board on the process would be wasteful. "That would mean throwing away $80 million of work. That's stupid," said Burkholder in October.