The Columbian editorialized against Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler’s proposal that a local referendum approving Vancouver light rail funding be made a condition for federal funding of the Columbia River Crossing project. While deeming this requirement an “awkward and dictatorial process,” the Feb. 5 editorial, “Let local voters speak,” acknowledged other conditions for receipt of federal CRC funds as “understand[able]” and, presumably, appropriate.
Really? As this newspaper well knows, Vancouver light rail itself, as well as an associated foot/bike path, have already been made conditions for obtaining federal CRC funds. These conditions add approximately $1 billion to the CRC’s currently estimated $3.6 billion expense — increasing project costs by more than the one-third that locals are expected to pay for the project through tolls.
These federally imposed conditions make this project so expensive that it must be tolled. As Clark County’s strong vote in favor of the toll-restrictive Initiative 1125 (defeated statewide) shows, local voters do not want tolls. Herrera Beutler’s proposed requirement for a local referendum favoring Vancouver light rail funding threatened scuttling the whole project.
Here is a compromise: No Vancouver light rail. Hence no need for either a referendum approving its funding or tolls to finance its construction.