Clackamas County commissioners may oppose CRC

Worried I-5 bridge tolls may crowd 205

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With the return of a Columbia River Crossing proposal in Oregon, comes Clackamas County commissioners’ concern over traffic on Interstate 205.

This time, though, the commissioners are in consensus that their worries about congestion on one of the county’s main arteries needs to be taken seriously in consideration of an Oregon-only solution to the $2.7 billion bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver.

I-205 in Clackamas County already suffers from rush hours that bring traffic to a standstill in some areas, such as around the Oregon City exits. Some traffic projections show that the Columbia River Crossing would put even more pressure on the 205 corridor, as people reroute to avoid tolls on the proposed bridge.

In February, Clackamas County Chairman John Ludlow suggested the board pass a resolution denouncing the project. That failed. He then proposed asking county residents how they felt about tolling I-205 on an upcoming ballot. That also failed.

However, the commissioners have written letters about their concern about traffic impacts.

They agreed Tuesday to send another letter -- this time, with teeth.

County staff are now drafting a letter that is expected to say the board wants answers about how much a future Interstate 5 bridge could impact I-205. If there are none, or the answers are unsatisfactory, the commissioners won’t support the project.

“We need to draw a line in the sand, and say unless we get satis numbers by this date, we must oppose the CRC because of the drastic effect it’ll have on citizens and businesses because of traffic on 205,” Ludlow said.

While his prior proposals split the board, they all agreed this time. Although, Commissioner Tootie Smith was skeptical another letter will have any affect.

“If we just send a letter, we might as well just make a paper airplane out of it,” Smith said.

Not everyone on the board is as ready to denounce the project as Ludlow and Smith, but all supported taking a stand, including staunch light rail proponent Commissioner Jim Bernard.

“We can’t wait until tomorrow. Some immediate effort should be made to address our concerns,” Bernard said. He emphasized the letter, which is expected to be finished in the coming weeks, should be “not a wimpy letter.”