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News / Clark County News

C-Tran to acquire land for bus rapid transit

It doesn't expect to have to use eminent domain in this case

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: June 10, 2015, 12:00am

The C-Tran Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to move forward with acquiring property for the agency’s planned bus rapid transit system in Vancouver.

C-Tran expects to acquire pieces of a series of properties along the planned route, which stretches between the Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown, primarily along the city’s Fourth Plain corridor. But those are “sliver” acquisitions, according to C-Tran, including one as small as 56 square feet. The agency also plans to acquire several temporary construction easements to build the system.

Among the impacted property owners are businesses, a housing complex, Clark College and the city of Vancouver.

While C-Tran technically has the ability to use eminent domain to acquire property in some cases, it doesn’t expect to in this case, planning and development director Scott Patterson told the board. C-Tran will negotiate with the owners and expects a favorable response, he said.

“These are pretty simple and straightforward,” Patterson said.

The board advanced the process by a 7-2 vote with relatively little discussion. Only county Councilors David Madore and Jeanne Stewart voted no.

Construction on the Vine is expected to begin this summer. Crews will build 34 new stations along the corridor as part of the project. The $53 million system could be up and running by late 2016, according to C-Tran.

The enhanced bus system uses 60-foot articulated vehicles, raised boarding platforms and other features to move passengers more efficiently and reliably. The Vine will replace C-Tran’s existing No. 4 and No. 44 routes along Fourth Plain.

Last month, the C-Tran board separately authorized the agency to use its eminent domain power to secure property from two major landowners at the Vancouver mall.

Negotiations with the two owners — Westfield Corp. and Sears — are ongoing, and C-Tran officials have said they likely won’t use eminent domain to acquire easements there. A Westfield representative said last month the company had “no problem” with the resolution authorizing its use.

Open meeting lawsuit

Tuesday’s meeting also included an executive session to discuss an active lawsuit against C-Tran, which prompted an unusual exchange among board members for the second month in a row.

At issue was whether Stewart and Madore should participate in the discussion of the complaint, which alleges that C-Tran violated open meetings laws when a committee changed the membership makeup of the full C-Tran board last fall. The lawsuit mirrors objections that county councilors raised at the time, but ultimately never resulted in legal action by the county.

Last month, Stewart recused herself from a closed session on the subject. Madore refused, prompting the rest of the board to take the unusual step of voting to exclude him — though the executive session was later delayed. On Tuesday, Stewart again recused herself. But she emphatically said that there’s no legal threat from the county anymore.

“Any assertion that there is still something on the table is a figment of imagination,” Stewart said.

Madore again said during the meeting that he wouldn’t recuse himself from the closed session, saying he has a “legal right to participate.” Madore and all C-Tran board members are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The board ultimately decided to start the executive session and allow Madore to attend. But when the closed session started, Madore left anyway. He did not return.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter