Bridge idea lacks Vancouver City Council's support

Only one councilor likes Madore's plan; others harsh in their criticism of it

By Eric Florip and Stephanie Rice

Published:

 

What do you think is our most important transportation need at this time?

  • A new, east county bridge over the Columbia River. 27%
  • A replacement I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. 62%
  • Other. 8%
  • No opinion at this time. 2%

2225 total votes.

photoLinda Figg, president and CEO of FIGG Engineering Group, gives her pitch to build an east county bridge over the Columbia River at a presentation in late July at the Clark County Public Services Center in downtown Vancouver.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

A newly unveiled proposal to build a bridge across the Columbia River at Southeast 192nd Avenue doesn't have the necessary support from the Vancouver City Council.

While Clark County Commissioner David Madore has talked about approaching Washington and Oregon transportation agencies and state legislatures with his idea should it garner public support, he hasn't addressed the fact he needs a majority of the City Council to endorse attaching a bridge to a city street.

The council would have to take specific actions, including amending the city's comprehensive plan. The city would also have to issue permits, said city attorney Bronson Potter.

Asked Monday whether they support Madore's plan for a third bridge, six of the seven council members said no.

And they had some harsh words for the plan, which was revealed Friday at a special presentation at the Clark County Public Service Center. In addition to having no financing — tolls were mentioned Friday, although Madore opposes tolls — councilors said Madore has greatly oversimplified the process. The environmental impact studies to make sure the project complied with state and federal regulations, said Councilor Larry Smith, would take long enough to guarantee Madore could never deliver on his promise, made in January, that an east county bridge would be built in five years.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, county commissioners will have a public hearing to gauge support for the bridge and consider whether an advisory vote should be on November's general election ballot.

Councilor Jack Burkman said an advisory vote would be misleading, as the public would think a bridge could actually be built.

"Either (Madore) is delusional, or he's deliberately trying to fool the public," Burkman said.

Madore has acted if he's building a private project on private property, said Burkman, who represents the city on the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, the C-Tran Board of Directors and the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation for Metro, the regional government.

Madore, a lead critic of the Columbia River Crossing, decried the lack of a public process that led to the adoption of a Locally Preferred Alternative.

But that involved 14 years of planning and public input, Burkman said.

"This has had no public process," he said.

Councilor Bart Hansen said Madore's bridge feels like a "scapegoat plan," since Madore opposed the CRC.

"You oppose a plan for so long, and you don't have anything viable, so you propose a plan that won't work and wait for people to say 'No,' to that," Hansen said.

Mayor Tim Leavitt said the county has no jurisdiction, on either end, where Madore wants to build a bridge.

"I think it's going to be a real smack upside the head when he realizes that you need partnerships to build an interstate bridge," Leavitt said. Meanwhile, he added, Madore's "rogue actions" serve as a distraction from a need to address congestion and replace aging twin drawbridges on Interstate 5, a key economic corridor.

As designed by Florida-based FIGG Engineering Group, Madore's plan calls for a four-lane bridge to end at Northeast Airport Way.

A second phase could extend the bridge to Interstate 84, said Linda Figg, the bridge company's principal.

No Oregon officials were at Friday's meeting.

"Like our friends across the river, we're going to keep an arm's-length distance while Madore continues to spin his wheels," Leavitt said.

Madore did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment for this story.

I-5 still No. 1 priority

Councilors Alishia Topper and Anne McEnerny-Ogle joined Smith, Burkman, Leavitt and Hansen on Monday in reiterating that the city's No. 1 bridge priority remains replacing the I-5 Bridge.

McEnerny-Ogle said she appreciates the time involved in creating a design for an east county bridge but was disappointed it abruptly ends on Airport Way.

Connecting the bridge to I-84 should have been included in phase 1, she said.

Topper called a third bridge a "solid idea," but, she added, "it shouldn't be a bridge to nowhere."

Only Councilor Bill Turlay expressed support for building a third bridge before replacing the I-5 Bridge.

The cost of the four-lane east county bridge at 192nd Avenue has been pegged at $860 million. The new I-5 bridge and landings planned as part of the failed Columbia River Crossing project were estimated at $1.2 billion — not including the cost of light rail. The entire CRC, which would have also replaced several freeway interchanges in Washington and Oregon, would have cost $3.4 billion. After Washington pulled out in 2013, supporters chased a pared-down version of the project estimated at $2.7 billion.

By the time Oregon walked away and the CRC began shutting down for good in March 2014, it had spent nearly $200 million in planning.

In support of his idea, Madore has cited a 2008 study led by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council and a November 2013 advisory vote.

The RTC study looked at possible eastside crossings of the Columbia River, including at Southeast 192nd Avenue, and found such a crossing would provide significant congestion relief on the Interstate 205 corridor, possibly resulting in 15 to 20 percent fewer trips on that freeway. But it wouldn't provide any relief to Interstate 5, the analysis found.

Madore hasn't mentioned that the 2008 Transportation Corridor Visioning Study sought to answer the question, "How would we get around within our own community in the longer-term future if our county reaches 1 million in population?"

Clark County's population was estimated at about 444,000 last year.

And while 57.7 percent of voters said in November they wanted a toll-free east county bridge, 55.7 percent of voters said they wanted a toll-free replacement I-5 bridge.

Columbian staff writer Tyler Graf contributed to this story.