It’s not the Bridge over the River Kwai, but is has generated nearly as much controversy.

The lift bridge over the mighty Columbia River on Interstate 5 between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash. is reaching the end of it’s useful life. As an important interstate corridor along the west coast, the federal government considers it an essential component of interstate commerce and part of an important transportation segment connecting Canada to the north and Mexico to the south.

This is where common agreement ends.

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A multi-year, multi-million dollar study sponsored by the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) and the Oregon and Washington Department’s of Transportation has led to more controversy and emotional disputes. The federal government has mandated a light rail component or refuses to contribute funding. Voters in Clark County Washington have (disappointedly) repeatedly voted down this option. In addition, the proposed bridge height has been a source of contention after it was revealed that the U.S. Coast Guard has not approved it and that several major employers upriver who depend on a tall bridge for commercial shipping of their products were not consulted. This could force their relocation or closure and the potential loss of many jobs–a knife in the heart of the southwest Washington economy. Just last week Jaimie Herrera-Buetler, a member of the House of Representatives from Vancouver issued a letter to Nancy Boyd, project director for the CRC questioning the budgeting of unrelated transportation projects that have somehow been attached to this project–like pork barrel projects adding unnecessary fat to an already overbudget planning process. Read it here. The story gets more interesting as you read an expose about the behind-the-scenes efforts of Patricia McCaig, consultant and confidant to Oregon Governor Kitzaber. Read it here. For the CRC side of the story, click here for the website: www.crc.org. For another perspective, read more here: www.crcfacts.info. No matter whose side you are on, clearly there is need for more public dialogue, straight talk and more information. There are other news articles in the Oregonian and a little history from the Columbian. After reading more about it, how do you feel about it?

7 thoughts on “Columbia River Crossing: A Bridge to Far

  1. It was really interesting to discuss this in class. I commute to PSU from north Portland, so the congestion caused by the outdated i-5 bridge is a very relavent annoyance in my life. I feel that the bridge is in dire need of being replaced, but I am very alarmed to find out how the CRC has been operating. Some of their mistakes, particularly messing up on the height requirements, are fundamental and should not have been made by a formal organization being paid millions of our tax dollars.

  2. I chose this topic for my midterm essay, and it is an interesting situation indeed! I agree that the bridge needs to be replaced, and personally don’t care if local residents don’t want construction, light rail, or other complaints they may have with the bridge project. Portlanders have been dealing with light rail construction zones for nearly two decades, and due to constant expansion of MAX into the suburbs, the city has been able to contain traffic during those years. You can still drive from one side of town to another within one hour during rush hour, which really isn’t that bad. However, as the NW grows both in population and commerce, traffic pressures will increase, and that’s where the bridge/light rail come in.

    While I agree these changes need to occur, I disagree with the budget control (or lack there of) associated with the CRC project thus far. There are multiple issues to address that are tied to the financial aspect of the project. Clearly, CRC will need to come up with a solid budget plan, free of “extracurricular” side projects; one that explains how government funds will be used, such as materials, wages, and relocating local businesses affected, etc.; and how the bonds will be repaid. I believe if the CRC becomes more transparent, and is able to show a legitimate plan that details where value is added into the local community (potential for decreased pollution as a result of XX less cars on the road, or number of new jobs for Clark county employees, etc.), they can get the project rolling.

  3. I thinks its really unfortunate that there are disputes and issues regarding the CRC project. After learning from the website that would be several benefits would occur such as improved economy, better freight mobility, reduced collisions, easier biking routes etc, its unfortunate that this has occurred. I felt that the staff and the internal public of CRC were doing a great job in terms of public relations. Such aspects included communicating with the public, having questions and answers, community meeting and face to face meeting all meant that the internal public of CRC was operating at a full capacity.

    It appears that many problems would arise if the CRC project were not to occur such as risks of earthquakes and greater collisions on the I-5 bridge. The CRC project would not only benefit travelers but the community itself. Im also surprised that in spite of the massive amounts of efforts the CRC staff put into this project, controversies and problems continue to arise, despite the fact that President Obama has also recognized this project as well, according to the newsletter. The government should analyze the pros and cons for this project and take into consideration of the risks involved for citizens, travelers, and the community on a larger scale.

  4. This project is absolutely an abomination of everything that is ethical. There is no way that you can say from a professional standpoint that it is except able to led a bunch of halfwit inbreeds start a project building the biggest damn bridge that Portland has ever made without being able to accurately forecast how many nails they will need for the project. These guys can just go to hell before I send them one dollar of my tax money. In fact I’m not even going to get a job so that they can’t take anything out of my paycheck, I’ll live on loans.

    This project is actually an excellent idea though! I would probably back it with my own investment if i had the money. The problem is that the government in Washington and Oregon are really a bunch of slacking sows and they won’t get their ish together.

    This project needs to have INTEGRATED business tactics. Who do these people think they are offering a 60-90 % deviation from their forecast results being accurate? So this thing could cost us 6 billion instead of 3.4? Have you lost split your damn wig?

  5. The I-5 bridge has been a hot topic with many people approving and disapproving this project. It’s sad to see governing officials take lack-luster approach to an enormous project like this. All the missed calculations and other mishaps have caused several issues. Why would citizens want to support a project if the people working on it can’t even talk to the Coast Guard. I feel like the whole project has lacked efficiency in planning and just taking the job seriously. It’s easy to do a horrible job when you’re using money you never earned.

  6. It is amazing how a study group can burn through dollars before one rivet is inserted into an iron beam. Why all major stakeholders were not addressed is really confusing to myself. And then I fear how taxpayers again will have to carry the load, for others misuse.

  7. I also had to write a paper on the Bridge and the progress that has been made in the time being. When the Oregon Department of Transportation announced that it’s shutting down planning for the Columbia River Crossing project, after the state Legislature failed to approve funding to build a new Interstate 5 and light-rail bridge into Washington. Supporters in Oregon tried unsuccessfully to get Oregon to continue the project without Washington, using state and federal money along with revenue from tolls. But they couldn’t overcome the opposition, which only grew after Washington backed out. Many worried that it would put too much risk on Oregon taxpayers, who would have the burden if tolling revenue fell short or costs ran high.All in all it is hard to say what would have happened but what we talked about in class before it is is easy for people to forgive and forget about an issue as soon as it happened and moved one with the next great story. In this case I think people would have been actually happy about the movement that the bridge would have created and got caught up in the fighting discussions that lead nowhere. But I guess that is where most government discussions end up.

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