Two Views: Costly I-5 bridge is an example of why voters must raise their voices

The Columbia River Crossing has only recently risen to the top of the issues list for Clackamas County’s Board of Commissioners.

Citizens of the 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 board of commissioners 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:

n 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. 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.

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

I asked my colleagues to direct staff to research the CRC and prepare a study session on the issue. On Feb. 12, my request was rejected.

Despite this, I will continue to do my own research on the CRC 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 about the funding options and impacts. Thank you for staying involved in the issue.

Paul Savas is a Clackamas County commissioner.

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