I read with dismay state Sen. Curtis King’s proposed transportation revenue package, which was released last week. His proposal in its entirety does not serve the interests of Southwest Washington at all.
From 2004 to 2012, Clark County received 88 cents for every tax dollar contributed to state transportation funding needs. This was an improvement on prior years where Clark County was mainly an afterthought for state lawmakers when it came to funding maintenance and improvements of county roads.
During that period, Clark County received more than $1.21 billion, of which $781 million from local, state and federal sources funded 19 major projects including the 192nd Avenue/state Highway 14 interchange, West Slough Bridge and Highway 14 widening projects in East County; the I-205/Mill Plain/Chkalov interchange and Saint John’s/state Highway 500 overpass in Vancouver; and parts of the I-5/I-205 project, new Battle Ground exit and Ridgefield overpass in North County. We had the success we did because our legislative delegation presented a united front to their peers in Olympia.
Instead of presenting a joint objective in Olympia, most members of the 17th and 18th Legislative districts, led by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Sen. Don Benton, R, vancouver, have been lobbying to kill the Columbia River Crossing.
Unfortunately, Rivers’ and Benton’s strong advocacy against the Columbia River Crossing has earned them the title of “Bridge Killers.” And the lack of united Clark County representation in Olympia has come home to roost with Sen. King’s proposed transportation revenue package. Where a prior proposed transportation revenue package from House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, included $450 million for the Columbia River Crossing, King’s package includes little funding at all for Clark County.
$225M a drop in the bucket
And while I acknowledge and thank King for including in his transportation revenue proposal the distribution to cities of $225 million over 10 years, this means an average of only $22.5 million per year will be shared among more than 280 cities for the next decade. Do the math. This plan provides very little for Southwest Washington to cities address the current and growing transportation maintenance and preservation backlog.
King’s proposal also fails to provide direct funding for ANY major projects in Southwest Washington. While some of the highway preservation and bridge preservation money could find its way to us, none of our critical projects are included. Metropolitan planning organizations in Thurston, Cowlitz and Clark counties have identified a combined total of nearly $2 billion in transportation projects (not including the Columbia River Crossing project) that need to be acted on within the next 10 years. None of these projects, including a major rail and highway corridor project in Longview, nor any of the identified projects in Clark County, including North County, are singled out for funding.
Sen. King, if you continue to listen to Sens. Benton and Rivers, you run the risk of signaling to people throughout the nation that we in Southwest Washington are incapable of managing a complex, bistate mega project. And because of biases against mass transit, Washington is more than willing to send our share of federal transportation dollars to other states, and Clark County is more than willing to send our share of a state transportation revenue package to projects up in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane.
Paul Montague is president of Identity Clark County (http://identityclarkcounty.org).