When it comes to politics, we encourage innovation and boldness and outside-the-box thinking; grand ideas are necessary for a city or county to make the leap from mundane to exceptional. But at some point, innovative thinking must give way to common sense, and that is the place now inhabited by the proposal for an east county bridge across the Columbia River.
The plan, which is being pushed — almost unilaterally — by Clark County Commissioner David Madore, has so many roadblocks before it that continued pursuit is nearly farcical. There is outside-the-box thinking, and then there is tilting at windmills.
The latest stumble for the bridge is a proposed mixed-use development at Southeast 192nd Avenue just north of state Highway 14. Weston Investment Co. of Portland has submitted a plan for an 84-acre development called Riverview Gateway. The proposal would include single-family residential housing, retail space, multi-family residences, office space, and parks/open spaces. It would surround the intersection of 192nd Avenue and Brady Road.
As details of the Riverview proposal emerged last week, Madore insisted that the development would be compatible with the bridge and that the bridge “doesn’t go into that area.” This is difficult to dispute, considering that no specifics for the bridge placement have been released. But throughout the process, 192nd Avenue has been earmarked as the terminus for the east county bridge, and dropping an interstate roadway into the middle of a mixed-use development doesn’t suggest compatibility.
Any big project is going to face hurdles along the way, and overcoming them is part of the definition of leadership. But Madore’s plan has enough roadblocks to stop an armored vehicle. Initially, he mistakenly believed that 192nd Avenue was outside the Vancouver city limits. It is not, and six of the seven members of the Vancouver City Council have gone on record saying they have no interest in pursuing an east county bridge when the Interstate 5 Bridge remains their top priority. That means the city will not issue the necessary land-use and street-use permits to bring a bridge to the 192nd Avenue area.
There also has been no demonstrated interest from the state of Oregon, from Washington transportation officials, from the Port of Portland, or from the City of Portland — all of whom would have a say in the final product. Now, it could be argued that this is a situation of too many cooks spoiling the broth, and that such a convoluted stew is what made a mess of the Columbia River Crossing proposal — and there would be some validity to that argument. But Madore’s persistence in the wake of such obstructions moves beyond outside-the-box thinking and into the realm of megalomania.
He has expressed a hope that all interested parties can work together, which is a curious stance for a commissioner who has picked political fights with the Vancouver City Council, the C-Tran Board, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, the Humane Society, and many others.
County commissioners have placed an advisory vote on the November ballot to gauge the public’s interest in an east county bridge. This places Madore in a can’t-lose situation: If the vote fails, well, at least he asked the public; and if it passes, he can blame other public officials for violating the will of the people when the bridge plan fails. The advisory vote likely will be approved; who wouldn’t want a shiny new bridge at a low price? But we might as well have an advisory vote on whether the Green Bay Packers should move to Clark County. Sometimes, there is a big difference between being bold and being foolish.