Washougal council votes to oppose CRC

Resolution calls project too costly, call for more cost-effective option

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Don Benton Letter to Washougal

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WASHOUGAL — In a move intended to stake a position on the Columbia River Crossing, the Washougal City Council approved a resolution Monday opposing it.

The resolution urges Washington lawmakers and the Washington Department of Transportation to pursue a more "cost-effective alternative" to the $3.4 billion megaproject, which would replace the existing Interstate 5 Bridge.

The city's resolution passed on a 5-2 vote, with councilors Paul Greenlee and Joyce Lindsay vocally opposing it.

While the city's resolution recognizes the need for a new bridge, it calls the current proposal too costly. It recommends a more cost-effective alternative.

Jennifer McDaniel, who sponsored the resolution, said it is important for people to voice their opinions on the CRC.

The city's resolution regarding a project over which it has no control had garnered some criticism for being nonbinding and divisive.

But McDaniel said the resolution would provide guidance to the area's legislative delegation.

"We have legislators in Olympia fighting for this," she said.

Indeed, the resolution came after lawmakers asked the city to take a stand on the CRC.

In April 2011, state Sen. Don Benton, a prominent CRC critic, sent a letter to Washougal requesting the council "publicly oppose the light rail/CRC bridge project in its then current form."

In February, the Vancouver Republican sent another letter to Mayor Sean Guard, asking him to add his "leadership voice to the current coalition of citizens opposed to bringing Oregon's failed light-rail system into Clark County."

Councilor Brent Boger said he'd also recently received a letter from Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, asking how the citizens of Washougal felt about the project.

More than providing legislators with ammunition to shoot down the CRC in Olympia, where funding for the project hangs in the balance this session, the resolution is intended to outline Washougal's concerns about how it would be financed.

Officials are concerned that a $4 per-trip toll would divert traffic to the Interstate 205 Bridge.

But the resolution was not without its share of detractors.

Councilor Greenlee, who has long opposed taking sides on the CRC, said the city had nothing to gain from taking a position on the controversial project.

"All decisions on the CRC will be made in the two state capitals, and the federal capital," Greenlee said. "By taking a position, we're essentially silencing the other position."

Councilor Lindsay said she wanted to focus on city business, not state matters.

The Battle Ground City Council voted in March to scuttle its own resolution on the CRC for the same reason.

"I am here for the business of Washougal, not for Oregon or Washington or the federal government," Lindsay said. "We have real down-home issues in this city that need to be addressed. The whole issue is driving me crazy."