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Commissioners prefer light rail vote

Public would consider two transit proposals in 2011

Published: August 5, 2010, 12:00am

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday adopted a resolution that calls for a public vote next year on funding for operations and maintenance of light rail.

The resolution says “a clear vote on light rail” is necessary to reduce confusion about public transportation planning and improvements, including proposals to enhance the bus and van services provided by C-Tran.

The commissioners — Steve Stuart, Marc Boldt and Tom Mielke —also serve on the C-Tran board of directors.

The resolution must be considered by the full C-Tran board, which includes six other local elected officials.

“On numerous occasions, we have said there must be a public vote on light rail,” Stuart said. “We need a clear vote that separates the issue of light rail from funding needed to continue core services.” Light rail from Portland’s Expo Center to Clark College in Vancouver is part of the proposed Columbia River Crossing, including a new Interstate 5 bridge and related improvements on both sides of the river.

Under the resolution, voters would be asked two questions in November 2011.

The first question would be whether they support a sales tax increase of two-tenths of 1 percent to preserve current C-Tran service, increase the frequency of bus service and add new routes.

The second question would be if they support a sales tax increase of one-tenth of 1 percent to operate and maintain light rail and to build, operate and maintain a new bus rapid transit line on Fourth Plain between Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown Vancouver.

If Clark County voted “no” on light rail funding, what would happen?

“It’s my understanding that we would have to have a successful vote or demonstrate that we can fund the operations and maintenance of light rail without degrading the bus service,” C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson said Wednesday.

Patterson said a successful ballot measure would generate enough money, about $3 million a year, to operate light rail on the Washington side of the river.

Could Clark County voters veto a multibillion-dollar project, which includes making many changes to the freeway in both states?

“I don’t know that anybody can answer that,” Patterson said. “Another possibility is to say this isn’t something C-Tran will pursue at this point. Would the city of Vancouver, for instance, want to take it on? There’s lots of questions. It would be a decision the C-Tran board of directors would need to make after a failed ballot measure as to what the next steps would be.”