Any last hope of reviving the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing bridge project was finally snuffed by the inaction of the Oregon Legislature.
While lawmakers in Washington had already dealt the multi-billion-dollar project a near-fatal blow in summer 2013 by choosing not to fund the state’s half of the project, proponents on the Oregon side of the project kept hopes alive and refused to completely end dreams of a one-sided funding model built by tolls or a new agreement with Washington.
Even into fall 2013 there was talk of reviving the CRC plans, potentially scaling down the $2.9 billion project even further. All those hopes are sunk.
Oregon Dept. of Transportation director Matthew Garrett couldn’t have been more plain in his statement on the issue: “On March 7, the Oregon Legislature adjourned without reinstating construction funds for the CRC I-5 Bridge Replacement project. As identified in Governor Kitzhaber’s Jan. 27, 2014, letter to legislative leadership, the project will begin the process of orderly archival and closeout.”
Garrett says the agency has a fiduciary responsibility to close out the project in a systematic, retrievable manner in order to adequately preserve a decade of research, environmental reviews, community feedback and detailed engineering work. You never know when the data might be needed in the future.
At this point expenditures will get reduced immediately while further development will not occur. Garrett plans the final shut down by May 31, including the vacating of the project’s Vancouver, Wash., office. Each agency involved in the project—which includes both the Oregon and Washington state transportation departments and Portland’s TriMet—is responsible for “necessary personnel actions.”
The original plan called for a new 10-lane Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, extending light rail from Portland to Vancouver, Wash., and rebuilt freeway interchanges. The project, while over a decade in the making, never found solid footing. The original design of the bridge was discarded and redone only to present issues with river clearance. Funding was the ultimate issue, as Washington lawmakers didn’t want to pay for their share of the project and taxpayers in Southwest Washington didn’t feel the cost of light rail was worth the tolling burden they’d face.
After $180 million worth of planning, there will officially be no Columbia River Crossing. Not now, anyway.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.