Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire have received the final report from the independent review panel that they appointed in April to assess the work of the Columbia River Crossing project and provide recommendations for improvements and refinements as the work continues.
The CRC project is an envisioned new, wider Interstate 5 bridge connecting Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
Upon receiving the report and recommendations, the governors directed the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Washington Department of Transportation to develop a plan to address the recommendations outlined by the panel and report back with an estimated timeline and execution plan for the completion of each action item.
In a letter to the governors, the panel affirmed that the CRC must move forward and a new bridge should be constructed at the earliest possible date. The panel also commended the work to date on the preliminary environmental and engineering issues and outlined a series of recommendations to serve as a roadmap to move from design to completion of the project.
"This report delivered what we needed -- a status report on this critical transportation project from an independent panel of national experts, as well as guidance on how best to advance the project in a timely, fiscally and environmentally responsible manner," said Kulongoski. "This report confirms that we need a new bridge -- that's not in question. And it offers constructive feedback on how best to move forward so that we can deliver a bridge that meets the needs of our region's future -- both in terms of the economy and livability."
"Replacing the two aging Interstate 5 bridges that connect our two states will create jobs and ease congestion for thousands of daily commuters and improve the movement of freight and goods along this key corridor on the West Coast," said Gregoire. "We are committed to building a bridge that reflects our northwest values and environmental conscience by accommodating not only cars and freight, but also high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians. This project will serve as a model for how the rest of the nation tackles major multi-modal transportation investments in the future."
The panel included experts with national and international experience in project financing and delivery, environmental law and land use, risk management, transit project planning, context sensitive design, and bridge design and construction. The panel was charged to: Assess the implementation plan for the CRC project; review the financial plan for the project; and review and evaluate post-construction performance measures.
Some of the topics examined included urban design, traffic modeling, community outreach, environmental permitting, alternatives considered, tribal coordination and financing.
As part of its review, the panel convened six public meetings in both states to obtain project information and to receive testimony from the Departments of Transportation, associated stakeholders and the general public. The panel also received public comments from 200 individuals and held consultations with many federal agencies including the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service.
The governors asked for a status report on the plan to implement the report recommendations within the next 30 days.
For the full 317-page report, go to http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/docs/IRP_report_072410_lowres.pdf