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?

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