C-Tran board may decide fate of light rail vote

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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The C-Tran Board of Directors on Tuesday is expected to decide how to proceed — if at all — on a proposed sales tax vote to help pay for light rail in Vancouver.

The outcome, however, may have been decided Monday.

The Vancouver City Council this week voted 4-3 in favor of putting off a sales tax vote this year. Members who voted in the majority indicated they’d prefer to vet other options for covering the $2.57 million annual cost to maintain light rail, options that don’t require a sales tax increase. This year’s planned vote would cover that cost, plus the operating cost of a proposed bus rapid transit system on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.

Six of the nine C-Tran board members have said they favor a broad public vote on light rail funding, including C-Tran’s entire service district. But if Vancouver’s three voices at the table — Mayor Tim Leavitt, plus Councilors Larry Smith and Bart Hansen — follow through with the full council’s earlier pledge, it won’t matter. Vancouver’s three members collectively hold bloc veto power, and could kill any resolution favoring a districtwide vote, even if the rest of the board supports it.

C-Tran leaders have long said they’d put a ballot measure to voters to help pay for light rail. A 2011 C-Tran board action also stated that a high-capacity transit vote “must take place prior to C-Tran or any other designee of C-Tran signing an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with TriMet to operate light rail in Clark County.”

Last month, the C-Tran board heard an earful from more than a dozen citizens — including two state legislators — calling for a districtwide vote.

Tonight’s C-Tran board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Rose F. Besserman Community Room at Fisher’s Landing Transit Center, 3510 S.E. 164th Ave. in Vancouver. A Regional Policy Committee meeting begins at 4:30 p.m.