OLYMPIA — Residents and a group of legislators from Clark County rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon on behalf of plans to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge with the Columbia River Crossing.
“This is the year; megaprojects require a great deal of time and money, and we can’t afford to do it all over again,” state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said at the event, which drew about 50 people.
Oregon has offered its share of the $3.4 billion project, while Washington legislators have yet to dedicate Washington’s $450 million share. Democrats have a majority in the House and support a transportation revenue package that would dedicate $450 million to the CRC.
Still remaining is whether that revenue package would make it through the Senate, which has a conservative majority.
The majority caucus in the Senate is composed of 23 Republicans and two conservative Democrats. Any one of them deciding to vote for the CRC
funding would give the 24 Senate Democrats the support they need to pass a transportation package.
“All we need is one vote in the Senate, and (a funding package) can pass,” said Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.
Cleveland and Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said they were both unsure as to whether funding for the CRC would make it out of the Senate, but both said they were hopeful.
“My hope is that we reinvest in infrastructure, and that those in the majority (caucus) will see the importance of this,” Cleveland said.
Also at the event was Nancy Boyd, the Washington project director for the CRC. She said some of the information being used to discredit the CRC is incorrect, including claims that the bridge design was being kept low to accommodate light rail.
“The bridge is as high as it needs to be,” Boyd said. “Even if you removed light rail, it would only add a couple of feet of clearance.”
Boyd also said that the bridge would need to maintain its current height even without light rail, because it needs to be able to connect to Highway 14 and the existing roads in downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island.
While CRC opponents complain that the new bridge won’t add enough lanes, Boyd said that the new bridge will have five lanes in each direction. Two will be for on and off ramps and three lanes will be for through traffic.
When it comes to I-5 Bridge congestion, “the problem is the on-off ramps, not the through lanes,” Boyd said. “The two extra lanes help to address that.”
Kelly Parker, president of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, also attended the event to throw her organization’s support behind the project.
“If the project is killed because funding is withheld, we will have to start all over again,” Parker said.
Supporters of the CRC were not the only attendees at the meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, said she visited the meeting to “talk to local supporters, and consider all viewpoints,” though she does not support the current CRC plan.
Pike stopped to pose for pictures with other legislators who are in favor of the bridge, saying: “We work together. We are colleagues. We just agree to disagree on this point. … If the bridge plan has light rail, it’s pretty much a nonstarter for me.”