For a project that was declared dead some three months ago, the Columbia River Crossing showed a lot of life last week. On Thursday, the C-Tran board of directors approved a financing plan for the operation and maintenance of a proposed light-rail system over a proposed new Interstate 5 bridge. On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard granted a bridge permit that was crucial to moving the project forward.
The developments were far from the defibrillator needed to fully revive the CRC — other steps must be approved — but there is reason for hope among supporters of the project. There also is reason for consternation on the part of detractors.
“I hardly know what to say,” Clark County Commissioner and C-Tran board member David Madore said before the light-rail plan passed by a 5-4 vote. “This is about the most stupid thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Big decisions of this magnitude, this is not the way you make them.”
On several fronts, we agree with Madore, although his assertion would carry more weight had he shown due diligence in hiring the county’s director of environmental services. The C-Tran financing plan was hastily put together and, as governments frequently prove, haste makes waste. The specific language of the resolution was not made public prior to the meeting. In addition, the board rejected a motion put forth by Madore that any financing plan go to voters for approval.
Last November, voters rejected a proposed sales-tax increase that would have financed C-Tran’s operation of Portland’s light-rail extension into Clark County as well as a Bus Rapid Transit project along the Fourth Plain corridor. The measure, which would have raised the sales tax within C-Tran’s service district by 0.1 percent, received about 43.5 percent of the vote.