Portland Mega-Highway Backers Resort to “Rebranding”

We’ve seen this trick from MySpace — in modern marketing parlance, they call it “rebranding.”

Call it what you want, this is still a very expensive highway-widening project. Image: Bike Portland

Jonathan Maus at Network blog Bike Portland reports that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber continues to push the Columbia River Crossing boondoggle – a $4 billion sprawl generator — but he’s wrapped it in a sanitized new package. Maus thinks the strategy is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public about the mega-highway project:

With increasing pressure to move forward after several years and over $100 million spent on planning, Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has teed up a bill (H.B. 2260) in in the legislature that would make the project an official state priority and would give the state authority to raise revenue through tolling (something they’ll desperately need to come up with Oregon’s $450 million (without interest on bonds or cost overruns) share of the project). But, as the Willamette Week pointed out yesterday, there’s one thing missing from the bill: the Columbia River Crossing.

Instead of the name the project has been known by since Day One, the Governor refers to the project in the bill text as, “The Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Program.”

This name change is troubling to me on several levels. First, it seems like an obvious move to confuse the public and cleanse some of the toxicity around this project. I’m not sure who Rep. Read talks to, but I think the vast majority of people in this region are aware of what the “CRC” is and that moniker is arguably more descriptive than “The Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Program.” And secondly, the new name is simply (purposefully?) misleading.

While project staff and boosters want everyone to think this is just about replacing an old bridge, the reality is that the bridge is a relatively minor portion of the project. Estimates put the cost of the bridge replacement at just $800 million. The real money is in the massive new highway interchanges that must be renovated and/or built. Estimates put the highway elements of the project at $3 billion. The highway expansion and new interchanges on the Vancouver side alone will cost about $800 million.

Instead of rebranding this project, maybe what Governor Kitzhaber should do is reconsider it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transit Miami announces that Miami Beach’s DecoBike bike sharing system is expanding into the city. Mobilizing the Region wonders why subway deaths prompt so much more attention and concern than those of pedestrians and cyclists. And Urban Adonia explores how class affects people’s views of cars and sustainable transportation.