After a heated meeting of the Columbia River Crossing's Bike/Ped Advisory Committee, it's official—the region's largest bicycle advocacy group, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has quit the big bridge project.
The BTA spent three years working with the CRC staff on the bike path components of the $4.2 billion bridge replacing the I-5 bridge to Vancouver. BTA advocacy manager Michelle Poyorouw, who sat on the CRC's bike/ped committee until yesterday, was disappointed and frustrated that the CRC staff has still not committed to high maintenance and security standards for the bike path, which is planned to run under the bridge. In March, the BTA took some heat for speaking out against the chosen 12-lane option, which they feared would include a bike path resembling a dark, dank cave.
"The BTA was explicity clear six months ago, three months ago, one month ago that we would not recommend anything without a firm commitment to maintenance and security," says Poyorouw. "We've poured three years of our time into this project. But what we really need are results and what we're getting is a deaf ear." She says it would be appropriate to remove the BTA's name from the member groups supporting the CRC.
Poyorouw says it was galling that at yesterday's meeting, the CRC staff only scheduled 15 minutes to discuss maintenance and security concerns along the bike path, an issue "every member of the committee has been saying for six months was important." According to another meeting-goer, the meeting eventually "melted down" and leader of the bike/ped committee David Parisi told bike lawyer Mike Ginsberg to "shut up."
Parisi is on vacation and did not return a call for comment but told BikePortland editor Jonathan Maus yesterday that the talks "are going very well" but that he is "disappointed that they decided to stop participating. They’ve provided some good insight and have helped the process."
Poyorouw says that though the BTA quit the bike/ped committee, it will remain involved in trying to influence the design of the CRC. "We are just not going to burn hours going through the CRC's public involvement process because it has yielded nothing... we know that the bike/ped element is really important to the federal delegation as well as the state legislators so there's no question they'll be hearing from us."
UPDATE! CRC staffer Peter Ovington responds to the BTA's concerns by noting that the other 11 members of the committee voted to approve the bridge design, leaving the project sponsor's council (the bigwig design group including Vancouver and Portland's mayors) to discuss the maintenance and security concerns. "There might have been some miscommunication about what [Poyorouw] was looking for but the majority of the group is comfortable with where the project is going," says Ovington, adding that Parisi has a congenial banter with the committee and that the "shut up" comment was in the context of a joke.
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