Oregon appeals board hears arguments in CRC challenge

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Lawyers on both sides of a legal challenge hoping to derail the Columbia River Crossing made their case to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals on Thursday morning.

A group of Oregon neighborhood and business organizations last month challenged the Metro Council’s decision to give its thumbs up to light rail and freeway improvements planned as part of a new Interstate 5 bridge. The Metro Council, which leads the Portland area regional government, approved a Land Use Final Order by a 6-1 vote.

Petitioners who took issue with the action argued that Oregon’s Land Use Final Order law was crafted in the 1990s for a specific light-rail project, and never meant to apply to a project as expansive as the more than $3 billion CRC. Metro representatives have countered by arguing that the law’s language is much more broad than that, and past light-rail projects have included highway improvements, as the CRC does.

Opponents have also claimed that neighbors’ concerns of traffic, pollution and construction impacts have not been adequately addressed in the planning process. Metro has argued that it’s taken every step necessary to identify those impacts and look for ways to limit them.

The joint legal challenge was brought by several Portland-area neighborhood and business groups: the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, the Coalition for a Livable Future, Weber Coastal Bells, Plaid Pantries and Jantzen/Angel LLC.

No decision was made Thursday. The appeals board is expected to make its ruling by Oct. 27, which could then be appealed directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541 or eric.florip@columbian.com.