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Environmental Studies

A Bridge to the Twentieth Century: Megaproject Technocracy and the Columbia River Crossing


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The Future of the CRC
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A Bridge to the Twentieth Century: Megaproject Technocracy and the Columbia River Crossing 
Businesses: "Build, Baby, Build"

While environmentalists and fiscal conservatives have begun articulating economic arguments against the construction of the facility, it is important to note how Portland’s business community have used economic arguments in support of as large of a bridge as possible. “This [CRC project] is the No. 1 transportation priority for us,” stated Marion Hayes, the government affairs director of the Portland Business Alliance. Business leaders have also been keen on citing a report released by Metro in 2005 that suggests that congestion along the corridor has cost the region $844 million a year in lost productivity. Citing Portland’s disadvantageous geographic location, business interests have strongly supported the construction of a large bridge under the premise that the increased lanes will help regional businesses stay competitive by lowering transportation costs and that the construction of the facility will bring desperately needed jobs to the metropolitan area with the second highest unemployment in the country. A recent letter written by the Portland Business Alliance and cosigned by numerous pro-business organizations firmly notes that while input towards the final plan are encouraged, “…the process must contribute to, and not detract from, moving forward on a project crucial to the well-being of the entire region.”  This flies in the face of the activists who have advocated for a complete overhaul of the planning processes that would undeniably delay the project further into the future. 

These assertions rely on a certain scientific logic that this particular bottleneck in traffic is solely the cause of this gigantic sum in lost productivity, and that the simple upgrade of this segment of I5 would alleviate congestion without network-wide implications. There's no dollar value assigned to the productivity that could be gained by alleviating congestion through a toll across the bridge, the value of helping Oregon and Washington meet their respective goals for carbon neutrality, or the other opportunity costs of spending billions of dollars on this one particular transportation project.
This arrangement of actors provides an interesting twist to the traditional political party coalitions generally seen both in Oregon and nationally. Labor and union groups are partnering with business interests in their advocacy for the facility, while fiscal conservatives and environmentalists are also unlikely bedfellows in their concerns about the size of the project. This creates unique circumstances for politicians of each party to navigate.

Photo Credit Jenny Cestnik

Last updated:  3rd May 2010


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