Transportation proposal offers little for Clark County

Senate plan asks local residents to pay more in gas taxes

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A $12.3 billion transportation package unveiled by Senate majority leaders Thursday appears to include relatively little specifically for Clark County.

A project list released with the proposal identifies a handful of items in the county that amount to about $46 million. That's less than 1 percent of the $6.5 billion directed toward road projects in the state.

Among the local projects on the list are the widening of Interstate 205 in Vancouver for $30 million, a rail overpass in Ridgefield for $7 million, and the widening of state Highway 502/Main Street in Battle Ground for $7.5 million. The proposal also includes $1.9 million for the West Vancouver Freight Access rail project at the Port of Vancouver, and $25 million for the state Highway 14 overpass at Bingen.

The package also sets aside more than $1 billion for highway preservation and maintenance across the entire state.

The amount for new projects detailed Thursday is far less than the $450 million the region would have received for one project in last year's version of the transportation package. But that project was the Columbia River Crossing, and its inclusion was a key reason the package ultimately fell apart in 2013.

Southwest Washington lawmakers have been critical of more recent versions that would ask local residents to pay more in gas taxes but get little in return. At least one legislator indicated he's not impressed with the latest plan announced Thursday.

"It won't go anywhere, not in the House," said state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver. "Not until they pass it out of the Senate."

Before the proposal can be taken seriously, its authors need to get it through a committee, get it to the Senate floor and get it to a vote, Moeller said.

"Show us the beef," he said. "Give us a bill."

Last year's transportation package cleared the Democratic-controlled House before dying in the Senate, which is led by a Republican-dominated majority. Leaders from the two parties have struggled to come to an agreement since.

Other Clark County legislators could not immediately be reached for comment. Both chambers kept their members on the floor for much of Thursday afternoon and early evening.