Washougal tables CRC resolution

Additional discussions are expected April 8

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The Washougal City Council could still consider a resolution opposing the Columbia River Crossing project, but the revised edition will be much shorter than the original version that was considered last night.

The original three-page resolution was crafted by City Administrator David Scott, based on input from City Council members. Information in that resolution was obtained from similar resolutions adopted by the Clark County Commissioners and Oregon House Republicans.

The CRC project, to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, would 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 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.

During public comments at the council workshop yesterday, John McConnaughey said he was a little disturbed by the resolution originally under consideration by council.“I like bike paths, and I want light rail to come to Clark County,” he said. “I’m disappointed with the resolution.”

Mike Briggs pointed out that several cities — including Camas, Longview and Kalama — have remained neutral or not taken an official position regarding the CRC, and he encouraged the Washougal council to do the same.

While reviewing the original resolution during the workshop, councilwoman Caryn Plinski expressed concern about some of the wording.

That included the description of light rail as “an inferior transit option for Clark County.”

“‘Inferior’ sounds opinionated to me,” Plinski said.

“I looked at Yacolt’s resolution,” she added. “It was short and to the point. I’m not sold on this one.”

Plinski said staying neutral could be a good option for the council, instead of going on record to oppose the CRC.

“It could be seen as being anti-business or anti-government,” she said.

Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel said she was concerned about the length of the original resolution, as well as inflammatory statements that used words such as ‘exorbitant’ and ‘unfair.’

“We’re going to be standing out,” she said. “The local state representatives and senator are fighting hard against this project. That’s where this fight needs to happen.”

Mayor Sean Guard mentioned the original resolution was not a city staff recommendation.

Councilman Brent Boger said he would support a resolution that focused on how the CRC could affect Washougal residents, by leading to increased traffic on the Interstate 205 bridge, tolling and utilizing funding that could be spent on state Route 14.

Councilman Paul Greenlee said there are major powers in Olympia in favor of the CRC and some who are opposed to the project.

“I don’t see any reason to alienate either of them,” he said.

“There is no positive thing that could happen from taking a position,” Greenlee added.

Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman said the CRC project will affect the local community.

“$50 million dollars have been spent on the design,” she said.

Freeman’s husband commutes to his job in Tigard, Ore. In addition to paying Oregon income taxes, he faces the possibility of paying tolls with the CRC project.

“It is our very immediate world,” Freeman said.

Greenlee said he was surprised the council spent almost the entire 90 minutes of the workshop, discussing the original CRC resolution.

He mentioned the city has issues such as water and sewer rates, the capital facilities plan, streets, the joint fire department and the next steps of downtown revitalization.

“We have plenty on our plate,” Greenlee said. “This is a distraction and a waste of time.”

“There is a $4 billion ‘gorilla’ in the room,” Councilman Dave Shoemaker said, regarding the CRC. “That is a considerable sum. Take a position on this. Let’s have the discussion.”

“This is the biggest project our county has ever faced financially, as far as bridges go,” Freeman said.

Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay said the CRC could create jobs for Washougal residents.

McDaniel requested a roundtable discussion regarding the positive or negative impacts the CRC would have on economic development in Washougal.

She put together a “local centric” resolution that mentions how the CRC could affect Washougal residents.McDaniel’s proposed, one-page resolution states the city cannot support the CRC in its current form, including the light rail component. It also states an opposition to tolling the I-205 bridge.

The resolution mentions Washougal recognizes the I-5 bridge is not sufficient for today’s traffic, and it urges the state legislature and the State Department of Transportation to pursue a “more cost effective alternative” to the CRC.

The alternatives mentioned are the possible addition of new bridges “of adequate height” east of the I-205 Bridge and west of the I-5 Bridge.

CRC discussions continue during council meeting

During public comment at the council meeting last night, Harvey Olson, of Washougal, wondered if the design for the CRC was submitted without Coast Guard approval.

“Who gave the assurance that the Coast Guard would be OK with it?” he asked, before encouraging council members to pass a resolution against the CRC.

“Send it to elected officials in Olympia and D.C.,” Olson said.

Molly Coston, a former City Council member, urged councilors to hold off on voting last night.

“There can never be enough conversation,” she said.

Coston said there are questionable components and it is not a perfect project, but it is a “vital corridor for freight traffic.”

While Shoemaker and Freeman wanted to vote last night on the resolution put forward by McDaniel, Greenlee and Lindsay favored tabling the vote to April 8.

The resolution to table the vote succeeded 4 to 3, with additional affirmations from Plinski and McDaniel.

“I want the public to look at it,” McDaniel said.

Freeman reiterated the stance that the CRC is a “time sensitive issue.” She has previously said she expects the State Senate will vote on the CRC issue in April.