A vote today by Oregon’s Metro regional government is expected to move the Columbia River Crossing project one more step down the regulatory line.
The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution saying that the concerns it listed when it adopted its “locally preferred alternative” have been satisfactorily addressed.
At a meeting last week, the council said that CRC staff had provided adequate data on issues such as impacts on the environment and neighborhoods. The council said some of the concerns remain to be met as planning for the crossing continues.
The Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation also is set to vote on the resolution today, at a 7:30 a.m. meeting that does not include a public hearing. The Metro meeting will have a public hearing. Several opposition groups have put out calls to attend the meeting, which will be at 2 p.m. at the Metro Regional Center, 600 N.E. Grand Ave., Portland.
Other jurisdictions, including the cities of Vancouver and Portland, attached concerns to their approval of the locally preferred alternative. The Vancouver City Council approved the locally preferred alternative, which calls for a new bridge and light rail into Vancouver, in 2008. While the city council included a “wish list” — including a freeway lid with a parklike setting (which is included in the CRC plans) and a “heritage” pedestrian bridge connecting Seventh Street on the west side of I-5 with the Vancouver National Historic Reserve on the east (which is not currently included in plans) — it hasn’t discussed adopting a similar resolution backing up its support for the locally preferred alternative.
The Metro council “decided that a project of such scale and regional importance needs another look before a final environmental impact report is published later this year,” a Metro news release said. The release said the council will continue to champion best practices in land use and transportation planning for the project, and retains authority over federal funding for the project, even after the two states publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement, expected later this year.
Traffic volume is lower than the CRC projected, prompting concerns from the Metro Council about possible shortfalls in tolling revenue, which is expected to pay for one third of the $3.6 billion project. The council also worried that the $450 million required contribution from Oregon could cannibalize funds for other needed highway projects in the Portland area.
Metro also will have one other key vote on the crossing this summer. On July 26, the council will consider amending a land use permit originally issued for a proposed light rail line from Clackamas Town Center to Vancouver in 1998. A steering committee is set to advise the council on whether to amend that 1998 order to allow for the Portland-Vancouver rail line and associated highway construction on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Crossing.
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/col_cityhall.