Washougal Council voices discontent with CRC project

Resolution is approved 5 to 2

The Washougal City Council has approved a resolution that urges Washington legislators and the State Department of Transportation to pursue a more cost effective alternative to the Columbia River Crossing Locally Preferred Alternative.

The vote during the council meeting last night was 5 to 2, in favor of the resolution. Joyce Lindsay and Paul Greenlee voted in opposition.

The resolution, prepared by councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel, mentions alternatives include the possible addition of new bridges of adequate height east of the I-205 bridge and west of the I-5 bridge. It also states that the city of Washougal is opposed to tolling the I-205 bridge, and it recognizes the I-5 bridge is not sufficient for today’s traffic.

The CRC project, to replace the existing I-5 bridge at a cost of $3.5 billion, would include light rail and tolls of up to approximately $4 in each direction, according to the council resolution. It mentions if tolls are implemented, there could be an increase in traffic on the I-205 bridge, impacting the commutes of Washougal residents traveling to Oregon.

Prior to the vote, Harvey Olson, of Washougal, urged the council to get the vote on the resolution over with, after having spent time on the topic at previous meetings and workshops.

“Send a copy to the Coast Guard commander and elected officials in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Greenlee urged individuals to contact state and U.S. representatives, regarding their thoughts about the CRC.

“The city has no say on the issue,” he said.

“There is no positive thing from [the council] taking a position,” Greenlee added.

Councilman Brent Boger said a council vote might assist legislators who are seeking input.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said it is important for councilors to tell legislators and local residents how they feel on issues.

“Take a stand,” he said. “Be a leader, not a politician.”

Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman suggested the possibility of repairing the I-5 bridge and building two other bridges elsewhere over the river. She pointed out there are 10 bridges over the Willamette River, in Portland.

Lindsay apologized to the residents who attended the meeting last night.

“I apologize that we are spending so much time on this,” she said.

“What does this have to do with the price of utility bills for Washougal residents?” Lindsay asked. “Those are real, down home issues. This whole process is making me crazy.”

Councilwoman Caryn Plinski referred to the November 2012 vote against C-TRAN Proposition No. 1.

It would have increased the sales and use tax by 0.1 percent, or one penny on a $10 purchase. The measure would have raised an estimated $4.6 million annually, to fund the operations and maintenance cost for C-TRAN’s share of light rail transit through downtown Vancouver.

The proposition also included funding for the Fourth Plain Corridor. It would have paid the operations and maintenance costs of the Fourth Plain Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit project between downtown Vancouver and Westfield Vancouver Mall.

Fifty-eight percent of the participating Washougal voters voted against the proposition.

“That leads me to believe Washougal residents oppose light rail,” Plinski said.McDaniel described the CRC as “the most important bi-state transportation project in our region.”

“We are a bedroom community to Portland,” she added. “So many of our citizens commute across the river every day — sometimes multiple times per day if they are contractors or they make deliveries. Tolls would be an additional hardship.”

Boger asked City Administrator David Scott if any topics had been delayed, due to the expected lengthy discussions regarding the CRC.

Scott mentioned updates from several departments had been “pushed back, but nothing of significance.”

Boger submitted a version of the resolution with amendments. The additions included a statement about the funding for the CRC preferred alternative “may seriously impact Washougal’s ability to obtain transportation funding for future projects” as well as improvements for state Route 14.