Environmental groups urge Kitzhaber to reject CRC

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A coalition of neighborhood and environmental groups on Friday sent a letter to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and other state leaders calling on them to reject the latest push for an Oregon-led Columbia River Crossing.

The letter, signed by 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other groups, calls the pared-down, $2.75 billion Interstate 5 Bridge replacement a bad deal with too many risks.

“Please do not support funding for the current CRC plan,” the letter read. “The proposed CRC freeway expansion remains bad public policy for Oregon and the Portland-Vancouver region. The proposal is contrary to efforts to foster vibrant, sustainable, and walkable communities that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, farmland loss, and habitat destruction.”

It went on: “Oregonians do not deserve contorted attempts to revive this dead project.”

Washington lawmakers adjourned in June without committing any money to the beleaguered CRC. Since then, supporters have mounted a last-ditch effort to salvage the project with Oregon taking on an increased financial burden. Such an arrangement would still replace the I-5 Bridge and extend light rail to Clark College, but wouldn’t build any new freeway interchanges north of state Highway 14.

Kitzhaber has indicated Oregon lawmakers may come back for a special session on Sept. 30. That’s the day Oregon’s previous authorization of $450 million to the project is set to expire unless its legislature acts.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has said lawmakers in Olympia could reconvene to again consider a transportation package as early as November, but the CRC is not expected to be on the table.