LAST WEEK, the Columbia River Crossing project spawned a fan club.
Billing themselves as the Columbia River Crossing Coalition, the group—"a coalition of businesses, farm organizations, labor unions, ports, and civic organizations"—plans to show that the Columbia River Crossing I-5 bridge "is essential to the economic prosperity of the region, the West Coast and the nation," and should be built between Portland and Vancouver.
Brian Gard of Gard Communications is heading up the coalition as co-executive director, along with Washington State Representative Bill Fromhold. The Portland Business Alliance, Oregon Business Association, and the Port of Portland are some of the group's heavyweights from this side of the river.
The group's support of the project has, so far, stayed in the realm of generalities: They're for a new bridge, light rail, bike lanes, and pedestrian facilities, items most groups—even those with criticisms of the project—can't argue with. The project should improve "access, traffic flow, and safety," the coalition notes, adding that tolling can reduce congestion.
Jurisdictions including Metro and the City of Portland have made similar broad statements of support, but have also attached stipulations with an eye on climate change, including a call for a reduction in the region's Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). And groups like Smarter Bridge, meanwhile, are advocating for a phased approach, with tolling now to pay for pedestrian, bike, and transit improvements.
The new coalition, however, isn't making any demands, and hasn't weighed in on how many lanes the bridge should have. A Project Sponsors Council is currently debating 12, 10 and eight-lane options, which all include three lanes of through traffic in either direction—the one other thing local jurisdictions have agreed on.
"I think that you will find us largely staying out of the specifics, but I think you'll find us aggressively saying if any one group gets everything they want, this project is going to fail," says Gard. "This has to be a project for all of the region."