The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project has only recently risen to the top of the Board of Clackamas County Commissioners (BCC) issues list.

The citizens of this county and of this state elected their local officials, like myself, and their respective state representatives and senators to do due diligence and thoughtful research on major issues like the CRC. I will work closely with Clackamas County legislators and listen to the advice of other state legislators. The legislators also have staffs that are highly skilled and knowledgeable on multiple issues.

Local lobbying efforts have recently come before the BCC from both those in opposition and those in favor of the CRC. Unfortunately, these good, well-intended lobbyists do not always provide legislators, local officials or citizens with the full scope of information on both the pros and cons of a specific issue. I will keep in mind that lobbyists are not elected; they are hired to represent their client’s interests. My responsibility, as a Clackamas County commissioner, is to do due diligence which includes listening to all the citizens of Clackamas County.

There are two concerns with the CRC that I envision will have a direct impact on Clackamas County:

1) One of the long standing concerns of the BCC has been that Interstate 205 already has major traffic congestion due to its own bottlenecks such as the Abernethy Bridge between Oregon City and West Linn. If Interstate 5 is tolled to fund the CRC, it has been suggested that I-205 should also be tolled to prevent additional congestion at these known bottlenecks. ODOT has yet to come forth with a response on the issue of tolling I-205.

2) Clackamas County has major transportation highway projects that are not currently funded but which are critical to the success of the economy and industry of the county. I am deeply concerned that certain CRC funding strategies will result in all other transportation funding drying up for the next 20 years. I do realize that different funding proposals are being considered in Salem, and I believe it is my job to discern the facts from the conflicting information—that requires research.

The BCC and county staff have been very busy with many other important issues inside Clackamas County, with the result that the CRC has not been reviewed in depth by the BCC, nor has staff been directed to research or prepare any information on the CRC issue.

I asked my board colleagues to direct staff to research the CRC and prepare a study session for this week. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, my request was rejected. Despite this, I will continue to do my own research on the CRC in order to answer questions that some of you have posed.

I will continue expressing my concerns to our legislators as I hope you will too. I appreciate the questions about the structural integrity of the bridge and bridge supports, what the solutions are for congestion, impacts to I-205, and what are the funding options and impacts.

Thank you for taking your valuable time to join me in serving the best interests of the citizens of Clackamas County.

Paul Savas is a Clackamas County commissioner.

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