Monday, August 15, 2022
Aug. 15, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Light rail deal on C-Tran’s radar

Contract with TriMet a CRC loose end some want to revisit, resolve

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

By all accounts, the Columbia River Crossing is dead.

A controversial light-rail contract inked by C-Tran and TriMet last fall, however, doesn’t quite fall into the same category. The deal has been called “dormant.” Or “unenforceable.” But not dead.

The C-Tran Board of Directors could revisit the agreement during its regular board meeting on Tuesday, possibly weighing its options for terminating it.

C-Tran attorney Tom Wolfendale was asked last month what it would take to do that; board members received a confidential memo on the subject Friday. The topic is listed on this week’s meeting agenda, but whether it’s discussed Tuesday will be up to the board, said C-Tran public affairs manager Jim Quintana.

The agreement spells out how C-Tran and TriMet would operate light rail as part of the CRC, which would have replaced the Interstate 5 Bridge and extended light rail to Vancouver. The C-Tran board narrowly approved the contract during a special meeting in September. The heads of the two transit agencies signed it the next day.

The move sparked outrage among many CRC opponents, and marked an important victory for the project at the time. When the CRC died for good earlier this year without funding or political support from either state, it left the contract and other loose ends in limbo. (The project finished shutting down and cleared out its office last month.)

The contract has no expiration date. But it only takes effect if the CRC is funded and built.

Some board members have expressed interest in terminating the deal, fearing it may rear its head again should some untold light rail project materialize in the future. But the contract includes language that’s specific to the CRC, and only applies if that particular project happens, C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm told the board in May.

At least a few board members want to remove any doubt.

“Right now the door is left open,” Clark County Commissioner David Madore said at last month’s meeting.

It’s unclear if the entire C-Tran board would vote to kill the agreement. The 5-4 majority that approved the contract last year included some faces that are no longer on the board.

Among them are former Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, who resigned earlier this year. But his replacement, interim appointee Ed Barnes, has been a strong supporter of the CRC.

The Vancouver City Council also changed two of its three representatives on the C-Tran board this year. But the city typically votes as a unified bloc, and consistently supported the CRC before its demise.

The outcry over the light rail contract largely centered around a few particular elements of it. Among the most controversial was a clause allowing C-Tran’s eminent domain authority to be used for TriMet to acquire property for the light-rail extension. It also states that a breach of contract by either party could result in a $5 million penalty.

The C-Tran board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo