Letters to the Editor for July 13, 2017

Tell congresswoman no tolls, ‘congestion pricing’

By the time you read this, tolls on both I-5 and I-205 at the Oregon border could be law in Oregon. On Thursday afternoon, July 7, the Oregon Senate passed their $5.3 billion transportation package. It goes to Governor Kate Brown’s desk for her signature.

Southwest Washington has an estimated 70,000 citizens who work and pay taxes in Oregon. In the failed Columbia River Crossing, Clark County citizens would be paying over 60 percent of the tolls in that proposal.

Oregon’s plan is a new twist — called “congestion pricing” or variable tolls.

Congestion pricing, the disastrous Washington State Department of Transportation policy on Seattle’s I-405. Citizens pay up to $10 to drive the HOV lane, avoiding the congestion nightmare created for everyone else stranded in the “free” lanes. Yet Seattle has the 10th worst traffic congestion in the nation.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported: “The measure orders the Oregon Transportation Commission to move forward with implementing variable tolling in conjunction with major freeway projects on Interstates 5 and 205. The idea is that higher prices to use roads can manage congestion.”

The first problem — this negatively impacts the low-wage worker much more than wealthy drivers. Our “progressive” friends are usually sensitive to “regressive” taxes. Next — those using the non-tolled lanes found driving times increased significantly.

Finally, ask a very simple question: Will Southwest Washington citizens “benefit” from any of the road improvements in the bill? With minor exceptions, the answer is “no.”

We all know the real bottleneck on I-5 in the region is the two-mile, two-lane section of I-5 at the Rose Quarter. It has the highest accident rate of any section of road in Oregon. Yet Oregon is unwilling to add new through lanes on I-5 at the Rose Quarter. They are only adding “auxiliary lanes” at the Rose Quarter for merging on/off I-5. The bulk of the Rose Quarter money will be spent to add two “lids” across the top of I-5, which does nothing to reduce traffic congestion.

But in the same transportation plan, Oregon is proposing to add new lanes to I-205 from Stafford Road to Oregon City — roughly six miles in each direction. Additionally, they will widen the Abernethy Bridge crossing the Willamette River and do a seismic upgrade. It’s presently three-lanes wide, and they want to make it wider! They’re spending $452 million adding vehicle capacity to I-205, and they want Southwest Washington citizens to help pay for it.

Southwest Washington citizens have repeatedly rejected tolls. It’s particularly outrageous when there is no benefit for Clark County drivers.

Citizens must now turn to Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler. The tolls must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. We need our congresswoman to tell the FHA to reject Oregon’s request to toll both I-5 and I-205.

Southwest Washington citizens have spoken multiple times — “no tolls” and therefore no congestion pricing. Clark County citizens should not pay for Oregon’s transportation projects. Those working in Oregon are already paying significant income taxes in Oregon.

John Ley, Camas

Challengers for Port Commission need to first understand what is needed, before trying to solve problems

As I enjoyed this year’s Independence Day celebration at the Port of Camas-Washougal’s new Washougal Waterfront Park my thoughts went to the great strides made by our Port in the last decade.

Ten years ago the Port was at a low point, weighed down by the legal and political results of decisions made by the Port’s leaders. In the midst of this turmoil Commissioner Bill Ward was elected to an open seat on the three person Board of Commissioners. He took his seat in January of 2008, at the same time David Ripp was hired to become the new Executive Director.

Our Port continued to struggle, but two years later Mark Lampton and Bill Macrae-Smith were elected to the remaining two Commission seats. With this team in place the Port instantly took on a different personality.

The once threatened Parkersville National Historic Site was immediately given real protection from development.

The Commissioners began really listening to the public. Nobody was fighting anymore.

They promoted the formation of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, an effort that pays dividends in job creation and fostering a new level of cooperation throughout our community.

They broke ground for the Steigerwald Commerce Center. It has been a great success, as noted in a recent Post-Record article, and will continue to bring good local jobs to our area.

And they developed the idea that has resulted in our new Washougal Waterfront Park, enjoyed today by local residents and visitors, and a great venue for celebrations like we just enjoyed.

The Port had put their unhappy history far behind them.

Because of these and other actions, and after only two years with this new team in place, the Port of Camas-Washougal was named Public Port of the Year by the Washington Public Ports Association in 2012. Our Port draws respectful recognition to our area from the region and across the state, adding to job creation, economic development and recreational opportunities.

Commissioner Bill Ward continues as the solid anchor of the Port, always watching out for the taxpayer’s dollars and for the best future for our community.

We lost Commissioner Lampton to cancer in 2015. His seat was filled by Commissioner John Spencer, whose background makes him an especially able commissioner. He brings with him a strong understanding of government process and finance, innovative thinking and a solid sense of community. He is serving as Commission president this year.

The newest member of the Board of Commissioners is Larry Keister, who replaced Commissioner Bill Macrae-Smith upon his well-deserved retirement. But Larry is not new to the Port. He has attended Commission meetings and other Port activities for many years. He has made important contributions to projects at the Port and the area, assisted in improving communications with other governments and organizations, and made good use of his community involvement by reporting on issues of interest to the Port.

Our Port continues to provide many benefits, large and small, with the largest current focus working with other landowners in planning a new waterfront development for the area north of the Washougal Waterfront Park. It is widely recognized as a successful, inclusive, collaborative entity that is a defining part of our community.

In this election year it is not surprising that a seat on the Port Commission would look appealing. Commissioners Spencer and Keister are both on the ballot in November seeking to retain their seats, and each have drawn a challenger.

If these challengers would like to contribute to our Port’s success, it’s easy to get involved. A good first step would be to attend Commission meetings. Get to know the Port’s history, how they function and their vision for the future. It is always a good idea to understand what is needed before assuming you are the answer.

We need to keep our current Commissioners in place and our Port going in its current direction.

Richard Hamby, Washougal

Herrera Beutler should help increase Alzheimer’s research funding

More than five million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, including 110,000 in Washington. In 2017, caring for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will cost $259 billion — including $175 billion in direct costs to Medicare and Medicaid.

As the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, these numbers will increase. Yet, despite these troubling numbers, Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health remains underfunded.

As a caregiver of a mother with dementia, I understand firsthand the impact this disease has on families across America. I am calling on Congress to increase Alzheimer’s research funding by $414 million in the next fiscal year. This amount is recommended by NIH scientists.

Thankfully, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler is a member of the Appropriations Committee which decides how much funding will go to the NIH. Only by increasing research funding, we will discover new ways to treat and eventually prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

I urge concerned readers to contact Rep. Herrera Beutler and ask her to continue the fight against Alzheimer’s by increasing funding for research by at least an additional $414 million in Fiscal Year 2018.

Beth Bonnett, Kelso, Washington