Several Washougal City Council members are eager to let state legislators know they are opposed to the Columbia River Crossing project.
During a workshop yesterday, Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he wanted to move forward and vote on a resolution to oppose light rail in two weeks. He described the issue as time sensitive.
The CRC project will include an extension of light rail 2.9 miles across the Columbia River to Vancouver. The extension would end near Clark College in the Central Park Neighborhood and include a station on Hayden Island, four stations in Vancouver and three new park and rides.
The CRC would include two bridges. The northbound structure would carry vehicle traffic above and have a covered path for pedestrians and bikes on a deck below. The path would be up to 20 feet wide.
Councilman Brent Boger said he opposes the CRC because of the potential of tolling or increasing traffic on I-205.
He said opposition to light rail was demonstrated in November 2012, when C-TRAN Proposition No. 1 was not approved. 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.
Boger said the majority of voters (56 percent) opposed the proposition.
“It was a de facto referendum regarding light rail,” he said.
Councilman Paul Greenlee said the proposition 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.
“It was not a clear referendum on light rail,” Greenlee said.
Later, during the council meeting, Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman said the resolution regarding CRC should mention concerns about federal funding for the project potentially taking money away from other projects, such as state Route 14.
The cost estimate for the CRC is up to $3.5 billion. The project will apply for $850 million in Federal Transit Administration funding, to cover the capital construction costs of light rail.
Freeman said the federal funding is not guaranteed.
“If not fully funded, state and local governments must make up the difference,” she said. “This could put Washougal taxpayers at risk.”
Freeman also stated her opposition to tolls on I-205.
Greenlee said he was “more than a little offended” that an unannounced topic would be brought up during a workshop, with the expectation for councilors to vote on it two weeks later.
“This qualifies as an urgent matter,” Shoemaker said.
“Is this an urgent matter to Washougal?” Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay asked.
Freeman said the State Senate will vote on the CRC issue in April.
During public comments, John Wagoner encouraged the council to “stick to issues that are important to Washougal,” such as water rates.
“The whole light rail discussion will be a distraction,” he said.
Wagoner is a former union lobbyist who spent time in Olympia.
“Getting money from the legislature (for the CRC) will be difficult,” he said.
Discussion regarding a CRC resolution is expected to occur at the next council workshop Monday, March 25, at 5 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. A vote on the resolution would follow during the council meeting at 7 p.m.
Town Hall attracts more than 40 area residents
During the a Washougal town hall Saturday morning, Paul Montague, president of Identity Clark County, said the economic benefits of the CRC would an improvement in freight mobility.
He distributed documents that suggested there could be an earthquake risk with the current bridge.
“The wooden pilings of the I-5 bridge sit in sandy river soils, which could behave like liquid during a major earthquake, causing the bridge to collapse,” the CRC project overview document stated.
Tiffany Couch, a forensic accountant, spoke against the CRC, along with John Charles, from the Cascade Policy Institute, and Clark County Commissioner David Madore.
Charles mentioned his “deal breaker issues,” which included the river clearance with the CRC is less than that of the I-205 bridge.
He opposes the light rail component of the project, saying travel time will increase.
“Tri-Met is going broke,” Charles said, regarding his concern there would not be money to operate the light rail trains.
He suggested the addition of a third bridge across the Columbia, instead of the CRC.
Since the opposition exceeded the 10 minutes of allowed time, Montague had an opportunity for rebuttal.
He agreed that a third bridge is something that needs to be looked at, but “it does not address the issue of relieving congestion on I-5.”
During public comments, Robert Fulmer mentioned a concern that light rail would attract a “criminal element.”
Dianna Kretzschmar identified herself as a 47-year old mother of six.
She said she does not like light rail, but she might want to use it in 30 years.
Jim Ashley said he supports light rail as he looks to the future and sees the increase in gasoline prices.
“People need to have a choice,” he said.
Ashley concluded his comments by saying the overall costs of the CRC are excessive.
Michael Kretzschmar talked about the inconvenience of delays caused by I-5 bridge lifts.
“Fix it,” he said. “The bridge might fall in the river. We need to plan for it.
“We’re all impacted by this,” Kretzschmar added. “Hopefully, we can come up with a compromise.”
18th District Sen. Ann Rivers, (R-La Center) referred to $200 million in cost overruns for the state Route 520 floating bridge in the Seattle area. Toll revenues for 520 are less than expected, so tolls are collected on the I-90 bridge.
Rivers said a similar situation could occur with the CRC and the I-205 bridge.
Alan Anderson, of Camas, said he opposed the CRC.
“It is overpriced,” he said. “A steel bridge is a cheaper alternative.”
Stephanie Turlay, wife of Vancouver City Councilman Bill Turlay, said she favored having voters decide whether to include light rail in the new bridge project.
“Citizens could vote on this issue, to inform elected officials,” she said. “Put it on a ballot. Let people vote. Then you’ll know.”