Bridge talks take hit; no light rail, no way!

TWO great columns on Oregon’s tolling & light rail demands

The Columbian published two great pieces on the same day. Their editorial and a letter from citizen Phil Haggerty. I sent the following letter to highlight this great “one-two punch”.

Oregon insults us

The Columbian published my letter here.

By John Ley, Camas

Published: November 8, 2018

The Oct. 21 Columbian had a wonderful 1-2 punch regarding Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s light-rail demands (“In Our View — Bridge Talks Take a Hit” and “No light rail, no bridge, no way”).

The $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing required Washingtonians to pay for a Steel Bridge upgrade, a new TriMet headquarters, an upgrade to their Gresham maintenance facility, and something in Hood River. Up to $2,000 in annual tolls to pay for borrowed funds was outrageous.

Forensic accountant Tiffany Couch issued reports laying out millions of dollars in questionable charges by contractors, misallocated costs and questions regarding the funding plan. Questions she raised led to a state audit raising multiple red flags and a state Legislature refusing to fund the project.

Citizens David Madore, Sharon Nasset and hundreds more spoke out. Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, earned the moniker “bridge killer.”

TriMet has an unfunded ($900 million) employee pension and retiree benefit obligation that we want no part of. They disrespect us, refusing to rescind the horrible C-Tran agreement that ceded eminent domain authority to TriMet and contained a $5 million penalty clause.

Oregon wants to pick our pockets with tolls. Demanding we accept light rail is an additional insult.

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The Columbian editorial.

In Our View: Bridge Talks Take a Hit

Gov. Brown’s requirement for light rail moves discussion backward

The Columbian

Published: October 21, 2018, 6:03 AM

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With multiple government entities calling for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has provided a reminder of just how daunting such a task will be.

“Before we move forward on the Columbia River crossing,” Brown, a Democrat, said recently during a debate with Republican Knute Buehler, her challenger in this year’s gubernatorial election, “I want to see Washington meet two criteria: That they are really serious about fixing the bridge and investing in that bridge; and secondly, that (the plan) includes public transit, particularly light rail.”

While Brown’s entire response to a question about the bridge took 60 seconds, it might have caused lasting damage. Rather than emphasize the importance of working with Washington residents and heeding the concerns of people who will pay for half the span, she drew a metaphorical line in the sand by insisting on the inclusion of light rail.

In case Gov. Brown requires a reminder, opposition to light rail was one of the reasons for the demise of the proposed Columbia River Crossing in 2013. After years of work by multiple government agencies, widespread input from the public and the expenditure of some $200 million on planning, the Washington Legislature scuttled the proposal. Clark County’s Don Benton, then a state senator, led the way in killing the plan, and lawmakers who stood in opposition often cited this region’s hostility to Oregon’s light rail system as the reason for their actions.

In various forms, Clark County residents have expressed opposition to light rail several times at the ballot box.

All of which leaves the two states at a standstill. Oregon officials are understandably gun-shy after having Washington back out at the last minute; Washington residents are reluctant to be bullied by their neighbors into welcoming light rail. Oregon’s recent plan for tolling along I-5 and Interstate 205, which would inequitably target Clark County residents, has only increased the divide. And yet that divide must be crossed.

That is the conclusion of the C-Tran Board of Directors, who last week passed a resolution urging Washington leaders to pursue solutions to congestion across the I-5 bridge. The board joined the city of Vancouver, the Clark County Council and all local port districts in supporting a replacement bridge. C-Tran’s board also specified bus rapid transit as its preferred form of mass transit across a new span.

Clark County Council members have supported bus rapid transit out of a dislike for light rail. C-Tran leaders did so out of a desire to provide bus service across the bridge. But regardless of the reason, bus rapid transit appears to be the more palatable solution for many local taxpayers. The Columbian editorially has recommended that the bridge be capable of carrying light rail in the future, but that the system is untenable for now.

Oregon leaders should pay attention to the recent resolutions, recognize Washington’s newfound willingness to engage in discussions about the bridge, and be willing to enter negotiations without preconceived notions or demands. Washington leaders should, well, be leaders. It is long past time for Gov. Jay Inslee to lead the discussion, and it is long past time for legislators to leave behind Benton’s confrontational style of representation.

This will require a willingness to compromise and a conciliatory approach from both sides. When one of the governors delivers a demand that is a deal-breaker for the other side, the process moves backward.

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Phil Haggerty’s letter.

Letter: No light rail, no bridge, no way

By Phil Haggerty, Battle Ground

Published: October 21, 2018, 6:00 AM

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, in a debate, echoed former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s famous words once again — “no light rail, no bridge” — when it comes to considering a replacement Interstate 5 Bridge. Her insensitivity to concerns of Southwest Washington residents is outrageous.

We know it was “a light-rail project in search of a bridge.” An Oregon Supreme Court justice declared it so in a 2012 opinion.

Willamette Week reported the following: “Last summer, the governors’ review panel said that failing to address the Rose Quarter congestion would be like hooking a garden hose to a fire hydrant. Questions about the reasonableness of investment in the CRC bridge because of unresolved issues to the south (the Rose Quarter) threaten the viability of the project,” the panel wrote in July 2010.

Oregon refuses to add new capacity, new through lanes at the Rose Quarter. Oregon’s No. 2 bottleneck begins at Rosa Parks Way, continuing to the Rose Quarter.

The residents of Clark County have spoken on this issue, loud and clear: no light rail, no bridge — we say “no way.” Light rail does not serve us well, is too expensive and pushes Portland into our county. Stop the proliferation of Portland’s bad ideas up here.