Crossing Guard
Image: Daniel Root

Members of HiNoon and the Hayden Island Livability Project in the Red Lion Hotel parking lot, beneath the northern end of the current I-5 bridge.

If the Columbia River Crossing were a raging river instead of a four-mile-long stretch of new roadway and interchanges designed to span a river, it would be easy to imagine the $2.6 billion-plus project smashing into the landscape with all the hyperbolic force of a Roland Emmerich disaster flick. Imagine:

Scene 1: Beginning around E 39th Street in Vancouver, the growing concrete tide flows southward innocently enough, sweeping away a few scattered houses like toothpicks.
Scene 2: Gaining momentum, it trims away part of Fort Vancouver and smashes through the corner of the Regal City Center 12 movie theater.
Scene 3: Plunging into Oregon, the deluge unleashes its full fury upon little Hayden Island in a wave of 22 freeway lanes and ramps nearly five city blocks wide.

So long, big chain restaurants like Newport Bay, Denny’s, Hooters, B.J.’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, and McDonald’s. Wave goodbye to mom-and-pop shops like Dotty’s, Paddy’s, Dede’s Deli, Pushing the Envelope, and Paul’s Trading Co. And here’s hoping the 30 houseboat dwellers in the Crossing’s path have scrambled to higher ground.

But, as in any good disaster film (and in certain ginormous transportation projects, too), there needs to be a hero, or at least someone to stand valiantly in the path of the bedlam. And last November, in the parking lot of a Hayden Island grocery store located directly in the Crossing’s floodplain, a small group of residents auditioned for the part, brandishing petitions and picket signs scrawled with the humblest of requests: “Save Our Safeway.”

The Jantzen Beach Safeway is the only place to buy groceries and prescription drugs on Hayden Island. In fact, it’s the only place within a five-mile drive or a half-hour bus ride. Most of the protesters who’d assembled in the store’s bustling parking lot that day live in the Hayden Island Manufactured Home Community, a verdant, vintage 1970s riverfront village of 440 single- and double-wide trailers. A sign at the village’s gateway advertises “Homes as low as $7,999.” Many of its residents are poor, old, physically challenged, or on fixed incomes—sometimes all of the above. According to protest organizer Erick Reddekopp, should the island’s Safeway close, even only for the year or two necessary to rebuild it someplace else on the island, many of the residents will have no choice but to move.

Dubbing themselves the “Hayden Island Livability Project,” Reddekopp and his fellow manufactured-home dwellers were beyond worried—they were angry. Demolishing the Safeway had been one early option in the Columbia River Crossing plan, but the islanders thought the planners had dropped that idea for good. Then, last year, the Crossing’s ballooning price tag forced major cuts to the project, and, poof, no more Safeway—without even a public hearing or an e-mail alert, much less a serious consideration of the consequences.