Oh good, it's a letter from Oregon and Washington Governors Ted Kulongoski and Christine Gregoire about the Columbia River Crossing Project! Spurred by a strong coalition of local politicians who say plans for a new $3 billion I-5 bridge have "unacceptable impacts", the two Governors released a letter this morning saying, essentially, "CRC OR BUST!"

The letter (pdf) addressed to Metro President David Bragdon, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and County Commissioner Steve Stuart, reads:

We value your advisory role in shaping a project that is essential to maintaining our economic vitality and enhancing the livability of the communities in our two states. Interstate 5 is a major economic corridor for both states and the entire West Coast. We feel strongly this project must move forward without delay.

That's harsh: we value your advisory role and therefore we're going to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you advise us to do. In addition to steamrolling forward, the Governors say they will convene for the CRC an "expert review panel, similar to that used in Washington State to review the Alaskan Way Viaduct and State Route 520 projects."

An expert review panel similar to one that worked on the Viaduct and 520?

You mean the panel that came up with the idea to replace a freeway in Seattle with a $4.2 billion deep-bore tunnel under Seattle's downtown? The idea which was rejected by voters and the city's newly-elected mayor, is estimated to run far over budget and was named one of the Four Highway Projects That Would be the Biggest Waste of Money by Infrastructurist?

And the panel that came up with the idea to replace the six-lane floating 520 bridge across Seattle's Lake Washington with a 13-lane wide option straight through a neighborhood which has created a divisive debate which "shows Seattle at its worst"?

Yes! More of this in Portland! Bring on the expert panel! The Governors will appoint the panel of experts ASAP, confirms Kulogoski's office, and their report will be due in May.

Metro Councilor Bragdon's response to the Governors' letter and plan is skeptical. "Any expert panel depends on who hires them and what questions they’re allowed to ask," says Bragdon. "My concern is that this one would just be another part of this on-going pattern of evasions and cover-ups." He's frustrated the state seems to not want to work with local leaders on the CRC. "Those of us on the local level are trying to work together, but every time we work together, the state slams the door in our face."