Bridge work to be challenged under Endangered Species Act

Another lawsuit is threatened against the Columbia River Crossing, the bridge and freeway improvement project proposed between Portland and Vancouver.

A group of environmental, livability and neighborhood groups have formally signaled their intention to sue to block the project in federal court under the Endangered Species Act. Among other things, the groups claim bridge work in the Columbia River will harm endangered salmon.

The groups include the Coalition for a Livable Future, the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. Previously, the CLF and NECN were part of an unsuccessfully lawsuit to invalidate Metro's approval of the project.

Metro, the regional government, has approved its construction under a state law intended to streamline the permitting process for the original North-South light rail project. The CRC include a new light rail line from Portland to Vancouver that is consistent with a portion of that earlier plan.

The CRC is intended to reduce congestion and improve safety in a five-mile stretch of I-5 that includes the drawbridge between Oregon and Washington. It includes a replacement bridge with the new light rail line and improved access for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project also includes changes to several freeway interchanges, including new connections to Hayden Island.

Plans call for the project to be financed with a mix of federal and state highway funds and bridge tolls. The original estimate was over $4 billion. A revised version presented to a committee of the Oregon Legislature is now between $2.63 and $3.49 billion.

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