CRC toll protesters forced to move over safety concerns

CRC toll protesters forced to move over safety concerns »Play Video
This photo taken from the protesters' Facebook page, shows the signs that the Washington Department of Transportation said were causing a safety concern.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Protesters demonstrating against plans for a toll to pay for a new Interstate 5 Bridge have been given the boot by the Washington Department of Transportation.

One of the reasons they got in trouble was for standing along the freeway onramp. Earlier this week the protesters were along the north and south ends of the Interstate Bridge, but the signs they were using were also a problem.

Protesters held large, orange signs made to look like construction area warning signs but that carried the anti-toll message.

Demonstrators also wore vests and hardhats like construction workers do.

It was all to promote a Clark County Commission candidate opposed to the current plan for the Columbia River Crossing project. But Washington's department of transportation told the protesters to move because they were in a dangerous area, and the signs could confuse drivers.

"If they were displaying them, and they were visible from the state highway, because they look like traffic devices – official traffic control signs – that again is a concern," said WSDOT spokeswoman Abbi Russell.

Even though they had to move, protesters say they don't plan to give up.

"We intend at this time to continue getting that message out with those same signs just in areas where traffic is going to be getting on the freeway or has recently gotten off the freeway, but not actually be standing on the onramp," said political activist Christian Berrigan.

Protest organizers feel the disclaimer on the signs, which reads this is "not an official sign... yet" should be enough to let drivers know the signs are not traffic control devices.

The activists say they'll have to come up with a different way to protest toll plans on the Oregon side of the bridge, because Oregon law clearly bans signs of any kind. Washington law only bans signs “likely to be mistaken” as traffic control devices. So protesters plan to keep using the signs on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

According to the 2009 Columbia River tolling study, tolls totaling over $8 for a round trip over the new bridge are a worst-case scenario. The lowest tolls might be, according to a different funding plan, just over $4 per round trip.