John Laird is The Columbian's editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much like the indefatigable insect that crawls out as the lone survivor of some nuclear holocaust, the Third Bridge Cockroach refuses to die.
This critter has been stomped, fumigated, shot, electrocuted and set ablaze for 13 years, ever since 1996 when a Columbian story reported: "Dozens of Oregon officials from three counties voted unanimously this morning to object to a study of a third bridge over the Columbia River."
Yet today, the Third Bridge Cockroach, or TBC, survives with help from Columbia River Crossing critics. Actually, these naysayers subscribe to the BANANA principle (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything), but they make an exception and advocate building a third bridge because they so vehemently detest the Columbia River Crossing.
As the tenacity of the TBC transcends the decades, it steadfastly believes Clark County is the lone stakeholder in the new bridge project. No one else's opinion matters to the TBC, certainly not the views of anyone over in Pagan Portland.
And surely not the views of one Rod Monroe, currently a state senator in Portland. In 1996, Monroe was a council member with Metro, the Portland regional government, when he explained with no uncertainty: "If Washington builds (a third bridge), the residents there better get scuba gear for their cars because the bridge won't be built on the Oregon side and will end in the middle of the Columbia River." Oh, dear.
The TBC believes facts have a liberal bias. Thus, it rejects the fact that Southeast 192nd Avenue is 10 miles from the Interstate 5 Bridge, and building a third bridge there would require I-5 motorists to drive 20 miles out of their way to avoid the Interstate Bridge. The TBC also is not interested in learning that two-thirds or more of traffic on the Interstate Bridge gets onto the freeway, or leaves it (or both) within the five miles of the Columbia River Crossing. Port-to-port and downtown-to-downtown drivers don't care about third bridges.
The TBC would scoff at this excerpt from a November 1995 Columbian editorial: "While Portlanders say no to a third bridge, Clark County last February (1995) said no to light rail. The difference is that Oregon has already invested millions (today billions) in a metropolitan light rail system; Clark County hasn't spent a dime on a third bridge. Like it or not, light rail has the upper hand." The editorial continued, "That doesn't mean Clark County must accept light rail. It does mean that without realistic alternatives -- and a third bridge isn't one of them -- gridlock will get worse, air quality will decline and quality of life will suffer."
The hardy TBC will never be listed as an endangered species and, thus, has no use for environmental concerns. The facts that a third bridge near the Vancouver Lowlands or in Ridgefield would threaten fragile wildlife habitat, or that a westside bypass to U.S. 26 in Hillsboro would require paving portions of Portland's Forest Park -- are irrelevant to the TBC.
Who needs teamwork?
The TBC would toss aside, unread, last week's 64-page Columbia River Crossing "factbook" published by the PR firm CFM Strategic Communications and available at http://cfm-online.com/crc-factbook/.
The one-sided factbook describes a coalition of CRC supporters. But the TBC skitters alone, unaffiliated and unimpressed by alliances. The list of bridge backers includes a dozen elected officials, 33 transportation companies, 27 other large businesses, 17 major manufacturers, 12 business organizations, nine construction companies, eight high-tech firms, five ports and more than 150 prominent leaders in the area, all vouching for the validity of the CRC.
I'm not saying the fancy folks on this list are more important than the rest of us, but they're not less important, either. And the fact that so many of them have united in endorsing the CRC is worth considering.
Nope. Frilly facts and silly coalitions are immaterial to the TBC as it pursues its solitary goal: never going away.