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Environmental Studies

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


Who are the actors involved?

The Future of the CRC
References & Links

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A Bridge to the Twentieth Century: Megaproject Technocracy and the Columbia River Crossing
Links, How to Get Involved, and Citations

As a contemporary case study, this website can merely provide a snapshot of where the Columbia River Crossing project stands, as of roughly May 2010. Even throughout the weeks leading up to the creation of this website, the CRC story has continued to evolve, particularly as citizen activists in opposition to the bridge begin to organize a coordinated response to the Final Environment Impact Statement expected to be released by the end of this year. I have no doubt that the project will continue to loom over the region’s consciousness in the months ahead, whether in the context of Oregon’s gubernatorial election, the aforementioned of the EIS, or other unforeseen developments to the story. I therefore provide a list of sources for readers of this website to check out if they want to learn more about the state of the project as it evolves past this to read more about the project as it evolves.


Jonathan Maus, editor of Portland’s blog, has covered news of the CRC over the past few years. His perspective is important because while his blog is largely concerned with covering bicycle-related events and politics in the city, the journalism of the blog has grown to cover the growing active transportation movement in the city.

The Oregonian - The region's largest newspaper, The Oregonian has played a substantial role in the history of the project by largely supporting of the Columbia River Crossing (see my discussion about the role of The Oregonian and local media here). It is interesting to see recent editorials, such as this editorial piece published only days ago by Associate Editor Mike Francis, begin to ask questions about the political process that brought about this bridge and doubts that the project, as it stands, is either politically feasible or objectively desirable for the region.

Portland Mercury

Citizen activist Christopher Smith has been closely following the developments of the Columbia River Crossing for years; he runs the popular blog and serves on Portland’s Planning Commission (for which he provides weekly updates.)  Smith, a previous candidate for Portland’s City Council, also gave a fantastic interview through  local Portland Podcast, which can be streamed, and is highly recommended listening in its entirety.

A panel of international architecture critics  hosted by PDXplore, discussed the project  (covered here) on their website and covered in the Portland Mercury’s Blogtown PDX, can be streamed here. This event was particularly noteworthy in that it intentionally brought in national transportation activists to review the current state of the plans for the CRC. Because the project has been criticized for its lack of independent oversight and from its insular review board, the two hour symposium in which international design professionals, urbanists and architects essentially slammed the project is an interesting listen.

Get involved:

Are you interested in getting involved with activism surrounding the Columbia River Crossing? Here are a few sites to check out to see ways in which citizens can challenge the current project.

  • Coalition for a Livable Future has a petition you can sign if you are interested in supporting their proposal for a “Climate Smart Columbia River Crossing.”
  • You could Join the Active Right of Way (AROW) Google Group, organized by a group of grassroots citizen activists  who coordinate efforts to advocate for sustainable transportation and livability projects across the city. They have an up-to-date calendar worth checking up on if you are interested in attending meetings and events about the project.
  • As mentioned on the “local politicians” page, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty is asking citizens for their own one-page proposals of different ways to tackle the issues surrounding this project. Some of the responses have been pretty interesting, if not necessarily for their depth of detail, but for the extent to which citizens have imagined unconventional, unique ways of solving the region's problems that a bureaucratic state-level transportation group like ODOT has been unable to produce. If you have any suggestions, I’m sure he’d appreciate your response.
  • Elections Matter. As mentioned in the sections about local- and state-level governmental agencies that are relevant to this project, some candidates have come out in favor of the CRC as it currently stands (Republican Gubernatorial candidates Chris Dudley, Allen Alley and John Lim; Metro President Candidate Tom Hughes), some have cautiously suggested minor revisions (Metro President Candidate Rex Burkholder, Gubernatorial John Kitzhaber), and some have outright called for criticial retooling of the CRC design process (Gubernatorial Democrat Candidate Bill Bradbury, Metro President Candidate Bob Stacey). If you live within the State of Oregon, you should have already received your ballot in the mail; ballots must be received by the state by May 18th.  Vote! In Vancouver, Washington, it's likely that opposition to any tolling whatsoever on the future CRC helped propel current Mayor Tim Leavitt to victory, despite the fact that even the current plans include congestion prices to help mitigate traffic.

Because this website is meant to inform an interested, politically engaged audience about the history of the Columbia River Crossing, I’ve attempted to limit my citations to journalism, blogs and other sources located online for all to see, and generally avoided the citation of academic literature about the history of highway megaprojects, the technocracy of transportation planning or the history of transportation movements in the Portland region. However, all of these documents are helpful for putting the CRC project in a larger context, and have been used to inform the content on this website. Below are a handful of sources not directly linked in the paper for those interested in academic literature and other important, longer-form journalistic inquiries into the project.

The Columbia River Crossing with Mt. Hood Behind.

-Photo Credit to Devlyn

12 Lanes?! Insane!

Photo Credit  Jonathan Maus

Last updated:  3rd May 2010


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