Oregon leaders appoint CRC hearings panel

Clackamas commissioners may oppose project

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor

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Although Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney has dismissed the chances of a special legislative session this year to discuss the Columbia River Crossing, he and House Speaker Tina Kotek have appointed a committee to hold hearings on it.

The 24-member committee was appointed Friday. According to The Oregonian, 22 of the 24 committee members voted this year to fund the project, which would replace the Interstate 5 bridge spans, rebuild freeway interchanges, and extend light rail from the Portland Expo Center to Clark College.

At the time of that vote, Oregon expected Washington legislators to follow suit, and made their commitment dependent on Olympia’s buy-in. When that didn’t happen, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and other leaders proposed that Oregon go it alone on the project.

The newly appointed committee has been asked to hold hearings on the revised Oregon-only plan. No dates have been set.

According to The Oregonian, some of the committee members who supported the bistate project have said they are not sure about an Oregon-driven Columbia River Crossing.

Courtney, D-Salem, said this month he thinks the matter should wait until next year’s legislative session. Kitzhaber would like to do a deal this year in order to keep the project on track for federal funding.

Clackamas County concerns

Also this week, The Oregonian reported that Clackamas County commissioners are considering taking a formal stand against the CRC.

Commissioners in the county, which includes the Portland suburbs south and east of Clackamas Town Center, are reportedly concerned that tolls on the new Interstate 5 bridge would cause many drivers to divert to Interstate 205, causing congestion in their county. They have already written letters to project sponsors detailing their concerns about traffic.

The same board of commissioners has been fighting light rail expansion from downtown Portland to Milwaukie, Ore. That project was endorsed by a previous board of commissioners, and is under construction.