The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council on Tuesday turned back an unannounced effort by Clark County Commissioner David Madore to pledge support for another public vote on light rail funding.
Madore introduced a resolution near the end of Tuesday’s RTC board meeting that would support “the opportunity for the voters of this community to more clearly indicate their support or rejection” of two high-capacity transit projects. Those are light rail, planned as part of the Columbia River Crossing, and a proposed bus rapid transit line on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.
Both of those systems were tied to a November sales tax measure that voters defeated. Madore and other CRC opponents have said that result reflects a lack of support for the projects themselves, particularly light rail. Backers argue that another local funding source besides sales tax is needed to carry them forward.
Madore stressed that his resolution doesn’t take a stance on how to proceed, but welcomes a vote toward that end.
“This is not a change in policy,” Madore said. “It is an expression of good will.”
But as Madore passed out copies of the resolution, other board members appeared uncomfortable signing off on a statement they’d never seen before. Several said they’d need to take the issue back to their respective jurisdictions before deciding. (The RTC board includes representatives from multiple agencies and local governments.)
“Are you proposing that we do this with no public input or notice?” asked Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman.
Madore said again that the resolution was not binding, and the action needed to be “timely.” The Washington state Legislature is already talking about the CRC, and the project continues to advance despite uncertainty, he said.
“We are rushing ahead even though the voters said no to this project,” Madore said.
Madore eventually agreed to make a motion simply putting the resolution on the board’s April agenda. But only he and Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke supported the motion, resulting in a failed 2-8 vote. C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm, an RTC board member, abstained.
The $3.4 billion CRC also took center stage earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, during a review of a broad Metropolitan Transportation Plan, in which the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement is included.
Madore questioned whether the CRC and bus rapid transit should be listed. He said the RTC board should have the flexibility to remove or reconsider projects as needed. That’s up to the board, said RTC Executive Director Dean Lookingbill, but other agencies and federal dollars are tied to such long-range plans.
The Metropolitan Transportation Plan, last adopted in 2011, is due for an update in 2015.