B.G. residents weigh in on CRC ahead of city council

Light rail a hot-button issue at forum

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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BATTLE GROUND — A handful of residents trickled into the Battle Ground Community Center on Thursday night hoping to have their say on the Columbia River Crossing.

Even though the city is not required to take a stance on the CRC, it plans to pass a resolution endorsing a preferred option for the bridge later in the month.

The city gave citizens five options to choose from at Thursday's meeting, running the gamut from building a new Interstate 5 bridge with light rail to doing nothing at all.

City officials say they want to follow guidance from citizens before making a decision.

Views of the long-in-the-works project among the smattering of residents who showed up were mixed.

Battle Ground resident Art Nelson said Clark County should not have to pay for a light rail expansion over the river.

He said congestion, long viewed as a reason why the bridge needs to be built, is a problem for the other side of the river.

"Oregon needs to straighten up their side of the freeway," he said. "That's where the problem is."

Whether Battle Ground should support light rail as a part of the bridge remained a hot topic during the forum. CRC plans call for building a light rail line on the new bridge, passing through downtown Vancouver on its way to Clark College.

Janet Elder Wulff said she was willing to take the long-term view of the project. Eventually, light rail will cross the river, she said.

"I'd like to see something happen with that," she said. "I'd love to be able to get on a light rail train and get downtown."

The Battle Ground City Council will use the community feedback to draft a resolution staking a position on the project. That position is expected to be presented to the C-Tran board later in the month.

The city's decision to take an official stance on the controversial span comes as its representative on the C-Tran Board of Directors, City Councilor Bill Ganley, says his views have shifted on the $3.4 billion megaproject.

Earlier in the year, it was unclear whether Ganley would even be on the C-Tran board after Yacolt, the other town Ganley represents on the board, threatened to rescind his endorsement.

Now, Ganley says David Madore, a fellow member of the C-Tran board and a critic of light rail as part of the project, "was right" when he said times had changed.

That view comes about five years after he was one of eight C-Tran board members to vote for a locally preferred alternative for the new bridge that included light rail.

Ganley said he wants to fully represent his community's views to the rest of the C-Tran board moving forward.

"It got out a while back that I was a light rail guy. I'm not," Ganley said. "I've ridden light rail and I haven't been impressed."

Ganley told forum attendees that light rail is primarily a "Vancouver issue." Battle Ground wants to protect the bus lines that serve the city, he said.

Clark County's other small cities have indicated they plan to hold their own small, communitywide discussions on the CRC.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities;tyler.graf@columbian.com.