The region's most expensive transportation project cleared another hurdle yesterday when the Metro Council signed off on the Columbia River Crossing project, despite it not meeting the goals the council set out for the big bridge three years ago.

The vote was 5-1, but three councilors who voted "yes" expressed some major doubts about the project. Former Governor Barbara Roberts, who is temporarily serving on the council, described her vote as a "leap of faith."

"I don't understand the path from when we laid out these concerns to how we got to here with so many questions still unanswered," said Roberts. "How many years do you push it forward? And would you have the answers if you did that?"

When it initially voted for the bridge in 2008, Metro included a list of eleven caveats that the project would need to address within three years. At the Metro vote yesterday, the bridge project had only answered five out of those eleven concerns (though says it's "on track" to accomplish the other six).

One of the sticking points, for example, is the project's uncertain promise to improve air quality in North Portland. When councilor Kathryn Harrington asked how neighborhood concerns about the environmental impact of the freeway expansion squared with the projects' goals, project staff responded that pollution would decline along the larger freeway because in the future cars will be cleaner for the environment.

In a bizarre moment, none of the staff present could recall whether the project has a long-term plan to monitor air quality after it expands the freeway to 10 lanes.

The long-term environmental impact was precisely the concern raised by State Representative Lew Frederick and former State Representative Joann Bowman, who were among the 20 odd people who turned up to urge Metro to hold the project accountable by voting no. Bikey North Portland mom Carie Weisenback-Folz showed up to the meeting with her small kids in tow and told Council that she feared that doubling the size of I-5 would create more pollution and a less livable neighborhood for her kids.

In the end, though, the council sided with bridge backers, like freight advocate Corky Collier, who asked council to overlook "unsubstantiated complaints" in favor of constructive criticism. "There's no reason why these improvements to the project can't occur," said Collier.