In Our View, Feb. 21: No More Meddling
Ample effort has gone into bridge planning; it’s time to move toward a groundbreaking
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Thank you, governors and port directors, for declaring last week that it’s time to get off the dime and replace the Interstate 5 Bridge. We hope four meddling micromanagers (two on each side of the river) were paying attention.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski wrote in a letter to elected officials that “citizens of this region have watched our two states discuss and plan for a new bridge for over 20 years, and they expect us to proceed.” Later in the week, port directors Larry Paulson of Vancouver and Bill Wyatt of Portland took a similar stance, noting the need to expedite freight traffic. These four leaders are correct. The wrong stance was taken in a Jan. 19 letter from Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart and Metro council President David Bragdon. They whined, essentially, for more local control. This begs the question: Where have Leavitt, Adams, Stuart and Bragdon been for the past five years? Consider:
In 2005 the bistate Columbia River Crossing Task Force was formed. Those 39 people from public agencies, businesses, freight, commuter and environmental groups have met 23 times.
Almost two dozen river crossing and 14 transit ideas were evaluated as potential solutions.
CRC experts and task force nonexperts also considered a tunnel, a third highway crossing and commuter rail. They settled on four river crossing options and five public transit options.
In 2006, according to the CRC Web site (http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org), a dozen preliminary alternatives for the overall project were packaged.
Throughout all of this planning and the spending of millions of dollars from both states, CRC officials conducted hundreds of local meetings, appearing before any group that would invite them.
In early 2007, after extensive public discussions, five alternatives were recommended: no build (for comparison purposes), replacement bridge with bus rapid transit, replacement bridge with light rail, supplemental bridge with bus rapid transit and supplemental bridge with light rail.
(We’re about to hit the home stretch on our list, which happens to be an abbreviated one. We still wonder if Leavitt, Adams, Stuart and Bragdon were paying attention through all of this.)
In May 2008 a draft environmental impact statement was released for review by the public and all affected agencies. This plan addressed community, natural and historic resources.
In July 2008 a Locally Preferred Alternative — specifying a replacement bridge with light rail extending to Clark College — was recommended.
A new bridge and light rail has received conditional support from city councils, transit agencies and transportation planning groups on both sides of the river.
And now, out of the blue, four rogue public officials want to study the project some more. We don’t think so. A final environmental impact statement is due this year, and if Leavitt, Adams, Stuart and Bragdon don’t stop picking this project to pieces, crucial congressional funding could be delayed or lost. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told The Columbian’s editorial board Friday that transportation funds are directed toward “communities not divided,” that this project is among the state’s top three, and if we don’t get our act together, the CRC will get nudged out of that top-three position by some other project in a more unified community.
Adams and Bragdon want to conduct their own study, but we turn their attention to the nine bullet points above, plus the CRC Web site for more details.
The governors and port directors are correct. It’s time to turn the mournful “Whoa!” into a solid “Giddyup!”