Clackamas Co. commissioners want traffic data before supporting CRC

Clackamas Co. commissioners want traffic data before supporting CRC
FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2011, file photo, taken in Portland, Ore., the Interstate 5 bridge spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Clackamas County commissioners signaled Tuesday they would not support the construction of a new Interstate 5 bridge linking Portland and Vancouver without getting updated traffic data from the state, they wrote in a letter to the governor.

In their letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber, signed by board chair John Ludlow on behalf of the commission, commissioners expressed their concern that tolling a new bridge over the Columbia River, commonly known as the Columbia River Crossing project, will divert traffic from Interstate 5 to Interstate 205 and cause congestion harmful to the county.

"Clackamas County requests that (the Oregon Department of Transportation) provide an updated and accurate analysis of the amount and timing of additional traffic that can be expected on I-205 under the proposed CRC plan," the commissioners wrote, adding they want the information by Nov. 11.

Commissioners say without the data and a plan to handle any increases in traffic, they won't support the proposed bridge plan.

The commissioners say they have written project planners three times in the past five years asking for answers of how tolling will affect the traffic in the county. But the commissioners said they have not received "satisfactory answers."

"Clackamas County believes that tolling the CRC will create unmanageable congestion along I-205, a lifeline for Clackamas County businesses," the commissioners said in their letter.

Support from the county is not required to build a new bridge and the county described its position as “informational.”

During Oregon's 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved $450 million as the state's share in building a new bridge over the Columbia River. One of the requirements for the project to go forward was Washington signing off on the project as well. But that didn't happen.

The project looked as if it were dead. But bridge proponents, including Kitzhaber, are now pushing for a scaled-back project led by Oregon that they say will cost about $2.8 billion instead of the original $3.4 billion price tag.

Under the new plan, the project would still include a new bridge with light rail and upgrades to the interchanges on the Oregon side of the river, but interchanges on the Washington side would not be improved.

Tolling will still provide much of the revenue for a new bridge, and project planners are still hoping the federal government will kick in $850 million for light rail. Oregon would still chip in $450 million.

The governor and bridge supporters pressed for a special session to get lawmakers to sign off on the revised project, but Oregon's Senate President Peter Courtney said he'd rather deal with the subject during the state's month-long session in February.

No one in the governor's office or at ODOT could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.