Columbia River Crossing Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them

Okay, I’m gonna try to keep this one short. After dancing on the grave of the CRC this summer, I’ve largely refrained from dragging myself through the nauseating task of tapping fingers to keyboard yet again over this $4 to $10 billion dollar mistake that just keeps on mistaking. Here we go.

To be clear, this is still a Dead Freeway. Oregon governor Kitzhaber declared such this summer, and despite his and other state Democrat’s best delusional efforts, the freeway mega-expansion has not been reanimated. The bonds approved in HB 2800 expired on September 30th, as mandated by several trigger requirements that were never met. There have, however, been some recent revelations worth noting. I’ll attempt to be brief.

Clackamas Country commissioners are demanding to see traffic diversion data generated by CRC contractor CDM Smith that, according to economist Joe Cortright, proves that new tolls on the CRC will divert so much traffic from the I-5 to the 205 that (A) the CRC will never pay for itself, and (B) so much more traffic will enter Clackamas and East Portland that citizens there will cough up a polluted lung while driving around searching for a space to park in their own hometown.

Said Cortright, “Here’s what the world looks like after the new bridge opens: 87,000 cars a day are using the brand-new 12 lane bridge, while over 200,000 cars are using the I-205 bridge.” The chart below contrasts CDM’s data against ODOT’s wishful thinking (FEIS). In light of our national decline in average driving miles and the current 10-year decline of vehicles using the I-5 bridge combined with the projected continuation of this decline leads to a clear conclusion in Cortright’s findings: ODOT and CRC planners have been flat out lying.


This point was driven home further by a refreshingly calm and articulate Lars Larson recently on a segment from KGW spinning the CRC debate as ‘Right vs. Left‘. While this type framing misrepresents where CRC criticisms actually come from, it was telling that the guy from the ‘Left’ struggled to string even two honest sentences together. Conversely, Lars mirrored Cortright’s facts about the lack of actual need for a new freeway bridge based on real data, and how there are far more intelligent, more fiscally responsible options available. When the most rational, reasoned talking points are shared by real citizens across political spectrums, that truth speaks volumes.

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How can Oregon Dept. of Transportation directer Matt Garrett get away with telling the lie, “the world will not wait for the Columbia River Crossing” when the public so obviously hates this boondoggle? Sustainable Business Oregon did an online poll showing 73% of responders oppose the CRC for ecological and economic reasons. One wonders if Governor Kitzhaber is paying attention to this kind of polling. Probably not. More on this in a bit.

The Columbian conducted a more scientific poll earlier this year finding 70% of responders opposed the CRC light rail component because its 3,000+ unit parking garage structure would decimate downtown Vancouver, WA and would also level a historic former brewery. No joke: the people of Washington would overwhelmingly enjoy more beer than suffer the CRC. Who’d be stupid enough to argue against that logic?


Hot on the Facebook page for OMG CRC WTF?! is an image from the Guardian UK showing how many freeways Paris, France would need to build to accommodate the onslaught of automobiles currently swarming the city of Dubai. The image is startling. It depicts a world we’re quickly racing towards: where walkable main streets and mom & pop shops are being destroyed by colossal freeway monoliths. It might seem exaggerated, but contrast what the I-5 looks like today compared to what the CRC of the future would look like. If doubling the width of freeways every 50 years only makes traffic congestion worse, who will stand up to the politicians pushing this insanity?

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Entering the home stretch of stomach-churning CRC updates: Oregon Democratic state rep. and CRC supporter Jules Kopel Bailey received yet another award from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters praising him unduly for being an ‘environmental champion’. Despite compiling their lowest list of enviro scores since 2005, OLCV went ahead with dumping praise on Portland’s least deserving state rep. Recent comments on Blue Oregon have not ignored this fact. We’ll wrap with another depressing state of Democratic Party affairs.

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber may be the biggest CRC liar of all, because he straight up knows better. It’s been speculated Kitzhaber secretly hates the CRC. Willamette Week hypothesized as much this summer, though failed to offer actual proof for this point. It is, however, quite telling that Kitzhaber delivered an accurate indictment of unaffordable freeways and the increased automobile dependence they incentivize while governor in 1997.

During the State of the State address that year, Kitzhaber actually got it correct, “Money alone will not buy our way out of congestion in the long run. It’s time we challenged the belief that the answer to our transportation problems is simply more money for more roads. It’s time we challenged the idea that says we can build our way out of congestion by adding more freeway lanes. That didn’t work in Seattle or Los Angeles and it isn’t going to work in Oregon.


The Oregonian’s Steve Duin, a long-time critic of the CRC, recently theorized Kitzhaber’s relentless push for the CRC came from pragmatism. I agree, but it’s not the freeway bridge he’s being pragmatic about. Kitzhaber, like most Oregon Dems, cannot get elected without the support of the major trade unions and the electoral boost their endorsements and campaign ‘ground game’ provides.

Deep down, John Kitzhaber knows the CRC is a terrible mistake, but it’s a mistake he and the rest of Oregon’s so-called progressive ‘environmental champions’ are comfortable making to get re-elected. Their obsession with forwarding this project will earn them a sad legacy that would make true ecological leaders like Tom McCall roll in their graves. This can not continue. Playing games with our future needs to cost these people their jobs.

As these lying politicians will likely return to Salem yet again next month for hearings on an even more idiotic ‘Oregon-only’ funded CRC, make sure your voice is heard loud and clear. Let them know you won’t stand for any more financially wasteful, ecologically destructive transportation mega-projects out of line with Oregon’s values. A link to contact the state reps on this newly formed committee can be found at Stop CRC HERE.

Ugh. I can’t believe we’re still dealing with this bullshit.
So much for keeping this one short.


“You all know I have terminal cancer, and I have a lot of it. But what you may not know is that stress induces its spread and induces its activity. Stress may even bring it on. Yet stress is the fuel of the activist. This activist loves Oregon more than he loves life. I know I can’t have both very long. The trade-offs are all right with me. But if the legacy we helped give Oregon and which made it twinkle from afar – if it goes, then I guess I wouldn’t want to live in Oregon anyhow.”

Tom McCall, 1982


  1. Absolutely! We have better things to fight for, especially when it comes to livable communities and active transportation but this project is sooo expensive it will threaten every other good idea for years to come because it vacuums up our state coffers and ties up and potentially wrecks Oregon’s good credit.

    If you read this and agree with you also need to contact the heads of advocacy organizations you are part of and let them know that you expect them to fight the CRC. It’s just not right for Oregon.

  2. REMOVING the downtown expressway in Boston by burying it has been a good thing…it gave us more free space to enjoy, tied the North End back to the city from it’s previous isolation, even giving us organic gardens where in a few years people will be able to pick the fruit off the trees to eat.
    Establishing the highway in you city would divide it physically, destroy neighborhoods and ruin a way of living that is an actual improvement over many other ways of being.

    I hope you guys shoot this in the head..FINALLY and for good.

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