In 2014 it was the Columbia River Crossing, a 16-lane bridge carrying Interstate 5 traffic across the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. After 8 years and almost $200 million in studies, planning and acrimonious debate, the proposed project fell apart. But now it is back with a new name: the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project. While this new bridge is being touted as the necessary solution to reduce congestion on I5, it is following the same exact course as the original project, spending $3 to $5 billion in tax dollars to widen I-5 to sixteen lanes in places, mainly to save commuters from Vancouver a few minutes of car travel time. Critics of this new bridge proposal are concerned that rather than investing in something truly transformational for our region, the Washington State and Oregon departments of transporation are proposing a freeway project that will increase greenhouse gas emissions and adversely impact Black, brown, and low-income communities by physically dividing neighborhoods, destroying wealth, and polluting air, just like the original I5 freeway did.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Robert Liberty, who while on the Metro Council, opposed the original bridge, and is now a leading voice in opposing the new bridge project.
Robert Liberty served on the Metro Council while the CRC was debated and served as the Executive Director for 1000 Friends of Oregon from 1994 to 2002. He is now the chair of the Columbia River Gorge Commission.