The Columbia River Crossing's controversial "independent review panel" is meeting today in a closed door session after a marathon eight hour meeting yesterday, at which the panel invited testimony from some business owners.

One surprise person who testified: Plaid Pantry President Chris Girard. The Plaid Prez has actually testified at three of the CRC's recent hearings, hammering home his belief that the $4 billion bridge will be a bad investment for Oregon and Washington. The CRC bills itself as a pro-business project, with the Portland Business Alliance, Oregon Business Association and Portland General Electric taking lead roles in spearheading support for the big bridge.

Girard originally became interested in the bridge when he noticed that its currently planned path would demolish or impact three of his stores—one on Marine Drive, one on Hayden Island and one in Vancouver. As he learned more about the project, he became convinced that it was a bad bet. "If the finances for this don't work out, business owners will have to wind up paying huge taxes and so will our customers," says Girard, who owns the 100 Plaids across the Northwest. "Looking at this from my business background, my first question is, how are we going to pay this all back? There's a high probability that the costs are underestimated and the revenue is optimistic."

The current funding for the CRC is in question, especially since Congressman Earl Blumenauer nixed federal funding for the project until the state and local officials on the bridge can come to consensus.

Girard's testimony in front of the CRC is an articulate analysis of the project from a critical business perspective. Check it out below the cut.