CRC in the national spotlight again

Bloomberg News may not have a huge following in Clark County, but the New York-based outlet turned heads Friday with a lengthy piece recounting the demise of the Columbia River Crossing.

The article by Peter Robison delves into the political workings that ultimately delivered a death blow to the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement in 2013. Readers of this blog know the saga by now; I won’t go into all the details of what Bloomberg’s version did or did not include.

But the headline of the story matches its rather pointed tone: “Washington State Spurned Money That Could Have Fixed This Deadly Bridge”

If you don’t read the entire story, at least read the top.

If, in some great museum of American public discourse, there’s a gilded pedestal reserved for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, then way in the back, in a darkened room that no one tells the docents about, you might find a cardboard diorama of the Benton-Rivers Encounter.

It happened last year on the floor of the Washington state senate. Senator Don Benton, a barrel-chested, goateed 57-year-old, says colleague Ann Rivers started the name-calling that made onlookers and pages gawk. She called him a “piece of s—” and leaned in so aggressively that, he says, he felt physically threatened. In Rivers’ account, Benton stared, laughed creepily and repeatedly called her “weird.” Some weeks afterward, according to a report by colleagues who tried to mediate their dispute, Benton would say Rivers, 48, was behaving like a “trashy, trampy-mouthed little girl.”

The passion of their exchange wasn’t stirred by abortion or gun control, or even partisan differences; both are Republicans. Instead, their argument boiled down to who was best suited to derail a plan for replacing one of the most dangerous major highway bridges in America, a rotting, accident-prone span over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.

It appears we now have an official name for the Benton-Rivers Encounter of 2013. Thanks, Bloomberg!

The timing of the piece is curious, however, considering most of the drama it covers happened more than a year ago. The story notes that construction on the CRC “was supposed to begin this year,” which is true.

Construction was also supposed to begin in 2013. After it was supposed to begin in 2012. After it was supposed to begin in 2011.

Bloomberg isn’t the first large media outlet to swoop in and write its own CRC story. The Economist and The New York Times both did so in 2013. The Economist story included a photo of the existing I-5 Bridge with a caption that simply read, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

That might be the most insightful thing anyone has written about the CRC.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at or 360-735-4541.

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