CRC group claims Portland support

Critics bash survey as flawed since it included no mention of project’s cost, tolls

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The Columbia River Crossing Coalition and the Portland Business Alliance released the results of a survey question Friday that they say shows “Portland voters strongly support building (the) project.”

The poll surveyed 300 likely city of Portland voters, who were asked by phone: “Do you support the construction of a replacement highway and transit bridge across the Columbia River?” coalition Executive Director Brian Gard said.

Sixty-three percent said they were strongly or somewhat in favor; 27 percent said they were strongly or somewhat opposed; and 10 percent said they were undecided.

No Clark County residents were asked the question.

“In political terms, particularly on a large complex issue like this, to be over 60 percent (in favor) demonstrates a significant support,” Gard said. “An elected politician would jump for joy if they got favorable ratings of 60 percent or more.”

But critics immediately rebutted the question as flawed. They said it asked nothing about how much the $3.1 billion project will cost, or who will pay for it.

Taxes, tolls left out

“Had the question asked: ‘Do you support raising gas taxes, issuing billions of dollars of debt, incurring possible cost overruns and charging a toll of $2 or $3 for each vehicle crossing the bridge?’ it might have been closer to fair,” Portland economist and staunch CRC critic Joe Cortright responded by email.

Gard conceded that the single polling question does not prove there’s the same level of support for the details necessary to actually building a bridge with tolls and a light-rail sales tax in Clark County.

“It would not be fair to say that this survey looked at every nuance of the crossing,” he said.

Instead, he said, it showed “solid basic support” for the CRC. He added that while the question was generalized, there has been a lot of publicity that the bridge will be two levels, with dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes, 10 vehicle lanes and light rail.

“Anyone who is any way interested in this project, they have a sense of what this is,” Gard said.

But Cortright countered that the question was kept vague to get as many “yes” answers as possible.

“The way this question is worded, it actually yields no meaningful information about public support for the CRC as it is proposed,” Cortright wrote. “It’s not any credible evidence about public opinion on the CRC.”

Gard said the same question generated nearly identical support when it was asked in March of this year.

“What should be happening is people should be gathering behind this,” after all the compromise that’s been included for residents on both sides of the river, Gard said. “These two surveys show people generally are.”

The survey question was part of a larger poll conducted on various topics of interest to the Portland Business Alliance, which represents business owners in downtown and the surrounding area, he explained. No public money was spent paying for the survey, conducted by Portland polling firm Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percent.

Gard said that if it were the Columbia River Crossing Coalition — whose members include businesses, unions, ports and others on both sides of the river — conducting the survey, Clark County residents would have been polled.

He said that the group was largely grassroots, however, and the funding hasn’t been available for such polling.

Prominent local CRCC members include the Port of Vancouver; Identity Clark County; Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center; Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce; Associated Contractors of Washington; and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall