Oregon court rejects CRC challenge

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a state board’s decision mostly rejecting a legal challenge to the Columbia River Crossing.

The ruling confirms a land use final order approved by the state’s Metro Council last year, which effectively signed off on CRC light rail and freeway improvements on the Oregon side of the river. The more than $3 billion project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge and extend light rail into downtown Vancouver.

A group of Oregon petitioners, led by business and neighborhood advocates, challenged Metro’s decision. They argued Oregon’s Land Use Final Order law from the 1990s is too narrow to apply to a project as large as the CRC.

In October, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals mostly rejected the challenge, with one exception: the board ruled that Metro slightly overstepped its boundaries in approving the project.

Oregon’s Land Use Final Order law only applies within the Portland area urban growth boundary. That only extends as far as the north shore of Hayden Island — not to the Washington-Oregon state line, as Metro’s land use order did.

The gap means Metro will either have to tweak its land use order to bring it back within the urban growth boundary, or simply extend that boundary to the state line. A Metro attorney has indicated the council will pursue one of those options.