OPINIONS VARY ABOUT HOW MUCH THE Crossing’s proposed 22-lane section on Hayden Island can be shrunk, never mind how quickly the various other disagreements over the project (tolling and aesthetics being the biggest) can be resolved. Packed with high-ranking, transportation-savvy Democrats, the Northwest’s federal delegation is positioned, as governors Gregoire and Kulongoski pointedly wrote in their letter, “to leverage substantial federal resources” for the project in next year’s omnibus transportation bill. Currently, $400 million is penciled in for the Crossing. But the region’s congressional delegation is unanimous on one point: for the project to be included in the bill, state and local governments must reach a consensus about the Crossing’s size and design.
Metro Council President Bragdon, currently serving his final few months due to term limits, takes a longer, more philosophical view of the Crossing’s prospects. Congress, he shrugs, can always put a “placeholder” for the money in the bill while the locals battle things out. But even with federal funding, Bragdon remains skeptical that the Oregon Legislature will find its share of the Crossing’s price tag—$400 million—in the face of the anticipated $2.4-billion-plus budget shortfall in the next biennium. For it to be built at all, Bragdon argues, the Crossing needs to be significantly rethought.
‘You can’t just oppose the freeway. YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY STAND FOR SOMETHING, to show an alternative vision.’
—Maurice Cox, National Endowment for the Arts
To that end, Maurice Cox from the NEA offered some advice during his Portland visit in March. As the city councilman and, later, mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 2000s, Cox successfully campaigned to shrink the size of a planned freeway through the city’s center. A key weapon, he recalls, was an alternative design. “You can’t just oppose the freeway,” he said. “You have to actually stand for something, to show an alternative vision.”
Everyone from Adams and Bragdon to islanders like Victor Viets, the retired civil engineer, took Cox’s words as a new battle cry. Adams hired his own consultants to explore removing some of Hayden Island’s ramps in favor of sending the local traffic back from the Oregon mainland over one or two smaller bridges to the south. Both Viets and Metro’s chief planner, Andy Cotugno, began working on schemes to reshape the lanes in order to minimize the path’s impact. Meantime, Bragdon is swinging for the fences: he plans to run all of the original traffic, population, and economic projections through Metro’s own powerful computer modeling program, MetroScope, in hopes of building his argument that the region’s goals can be better met with a smaller Crossing.
One of the most powerful figures in the Crossing’s hierarchy has also jumped into the fray: Henry Hewitt, a lawyer who, for six years, has co-chaired the bi-state task force overseeing the project. At his demand, Crossing planners are now working directly with Metro and the City of Portland on all of their efforts. “For the first time,” Hewitt says of the simmering tensions between the state and city governments, “I think we’re making progress.”