More notes on the Columbia River Crossing

As the embattled Columbia River Crossing project approaches what many call a make-or-break moment, there’s no shortage of opinions circulating about the Interstate-5 Bridge replacement. Here are just a few:

Sweet treats for lawmakers: For legislators on the fence about whether to pass a transportation package with $450 million for the CRC, perhaps a yogurt-covered pretzel will help them decide. Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, recently received a goodies bag with yogurt pretzels, crackers, chocolate, tea and a cookie from CRC opponents.

A note accompanying the bag of treats stated: “Thank you for not wasting $450 million taxpayer $$ on the faulty Columbia River Crossing project. And for placing restrictions on the budgeted CRC funds. Sincerely, concerned SW WA citizens including Donna Dummann, Margaret Tweet & Karen Gurevitch.”

Wylie is a strong supporter of the CRC. She and many other Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee, say lawmakers must approve Washington’s $450 million share of the project this year, or replacing the I-5 Bridge could be delayed for a decade or more.

Questions for the Coast Guard: Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif. and chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, sent a letter to the Coast Guard about his concerns over the CRC’s height of 116 feet.

“I have been contacted by businesses, residents, and river users along the Columbia River with serious concerns regarding the proposed CRC project and the impact it may have on river traffic,” Hunter wrote to Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. Hunter asked Papp to provide him with a summary and timeline of the Coast Guard’s permitting process for the CRC, as well as a “detailed account of the criteria being used by the Coast Guard to determine bridge height standards with respect to river usage.”

Don’t forget maintenance: CRC critics aren’t the only ones who have a problem with the tax-raising transportation package being considered in Olympia. Some sustainability advocates in Seattle see another problem with the proposal: it doesn’t spend enough on maintaining existing roads.

“Even as it splurges on new highways, the package offers only a pittance to maintaining and preserving the ones we’ve already built,” wrote Clark Williams-Derry of “Environmentalists should view it as a terrible idea.”

The transportation package being weighed by lawmakers includes $450 million for the CRC, $1.27 billion for the Puget Sound Gateway Project (which improves state Highways 167 and 509), $675 million to widen Interstate 405 between Renton and Lynnwood, and $420 million for the North Spokane Corridor project.

Williams-Derry’s analysis breaks that down to just 12 cents of every transportation package dollar being spent on road operations, maintenance or preservation.

Graphic from
Click to enlarge. (Graphic from

The transportation package has been scaled down a bit since it was first proposed. Initially, it would have raised $9.8 billion during 10 years; now it would raise $8.4 billion during 12 years.

Stevie Mathieu

Stevie Mathieu

Stevie Mathieu is a political writer at The Columbian. Contact her at 360-735-4523 or or or

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