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Just Crossing Alliance Testifies to Bi-State Interstate Bridge Replacement Committee about Friday’s revelation of $7.5 Billion Freeway Expansion

    For Immediate Release: 12 December 2022

    Media Contact: Brett Morgan, 1000 Friends of Oregon – 503.497.1000 x122

    Salem OR / Olympia WA: 

    Just Crossing Alliance Testifies to Bi-State Interstate Bridge Replacement Committee about Friday’s revelation of $7.5 Billion Freeway Expansion:

    “What good is a shiny new bridge when our kids can’t safely cross the street in our neighborhoods?”

    Oregon should invest in public transit, clean air, and climate, not freeway expansion boondoggles.

    Today Administrator Greg Johnson and the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) Project Team presented their updated $6-7.5 Billion cost estimate to the bi-state committee of Oregon and Washington lawmakers overseeing the freeway expansion mega-project. Lawmakers on both sides of the Columbia asked critical questions about the costs and requested more detail. 100% of public testimony was critical of the mega-project’s scope and spiraling costs. In response, Administrator Johnson closed the hearing with a line in the sand: “Guess what? That number will not get smaller.”

    “The Just Crossing Alliance supports a safe crossing of the Columbia, and climate-forward solutions like public transportation options that are frequent, reliable, affordable, and connected with our communities’ needs,” said Chris Smith of No More Freeways, a member of the Just Crossing Alliance. “What we heard today was another stunning admission by the IBR team: of the $7.5 billion dollars they want from the public purse, zero dollars are for operating public transportation. In the climate emergency, that is outrageous and unacceptable.”

    “We want this crossing to prioritize climate goals, clean air, and connected communities, and that means public transit needs to be at the center of this project. The bridge is only a fraction of what is otherwise mainly a massive freeway expansion project,” said Cassandra Wilson of Sunrise Movement Rural Oregon, in her testimony. “Do away with the rebuilt interchanges and additional lanes and you’ll also be doing away with a
    huge chunk of the cost, as well as emissions. Please don’t indebt my generation and future generations to further climate chaos and bigger freeways.”

    “My son Seamus was 22 months old when he was killed by a careless driver in a crosswalk near our home in Portland,” testified Michelle DuBarry of Families for Safe Streets, another Just Crossing Alliance member. “What good is a shiny new bridge when our kids can’t safely cross the street in our neighborhoods? Motor vehicle crashes are the most common way for children to die in the U.S. We desperately need a more
    balanced approach to transportation, and I respectfully request that this committee look at lower cost options so that we have funding for our neighborhood streets.”

    “We invite committee members in both states to right-size this project to create a safe crossing with better transit and active transportation connections, and not to expand highway capacity which would increase pollution that causes health harm today and makes the climate crisis worse,” said Paulo Nunes-Ueno of Front and Centered, an environmental justice coalition in Washington state with more than 70 member
    organizations who are communities of color and frontline communities statewide, and a member of the Just Crossing Alliance.

    The Just Crossing Alliance urges Oregon and Washington lawmakers to steer the public’s dollars into transportation solutions that will reduce – not expand – climate warming pollution. This includes safe and accessible public transportation, electrification, and safe streets for all users.

    Today’s hearing comes on the heels of an IBR press release on Friday announcing a doubling of projected mega-project costs, from a previous range of $3.2 to $4.8 billion to $5 to $7.5 billion. Today’s hearing confirmed that a large portion of the project costs result from freeway and interchange expansions, notably on Marine Drive in Portland which was called “the second most expensive aspect of this project” and is not essential to ensuring seismic resiliency or public transportation options on the bridge. Lawmakers on both sides of the river questioned the IBR team about the plan to operate light rail service and how it will be financed, to the response that there is no plan at this time and it is not factored into appropriation requests from Washington or Oregon. It was noted that securing these operations funds is an essential step to securing capital construction grants from the federal government for the light rail.

    The Just Crossing Alliance (JCA) is a bi-state coalition of 32 community and advocacy groups focused on ensuring that the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge is seismically safe, climate forward, and right-sized for our region.


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