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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Legislative panel OKs bistate bridge measure

Pike-Wylie effort would create project work group to revive conversations

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer
Published: February 3, 2016, 7:26pm

A legislative panel approved a measure Wednesday creating a bistate bridge project work group.

Although House Bill 2414 does relatively little — it would carve out $100,000 to form a coalition of legislators from both sides of the Columbia River to revive conversations about how to improve freight mobility and congestion over the river — it’s already created controversy.

The measure now moves to the House Rules Committee. The next step would be a vote by the entire House.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, called the effort “one of the more positive developments in recent memory.”

Herrera Beutler’s letter was in response to criticisms from Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt. Last month, Leavitt emailed state Rep. Judy Clibborn, chair of the House’s Transportation Committee, urging her to kill the bill. Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, have teamed up to shepherd the measure through the Legislature.

Leavitt criticized Pike’s involvement, calling her one of the “lead architects in an effort to destroy” the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing project. Leavitt said Pike’s involvement caused an “immediate recoil” from key community officials.

Herrera Beutler said Leavitt’s attack on Pike was “exactly the attitude that proved fatal to the CRC project.”

“If we go into this process carrying grudges, clinging to the past and excluding the people we disagree with, we are dooming ourselves to many more years of gridlock,” Herrera Beutler wrote.

Pike said she appreciates Herrera Beutler’s support and leadership on the issue. Herrera Beutler also wrote that she still believes the region must address the shortcomings of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

“But I will only move forward on securing federal funds for such a project if I know there has been an open, inclusive process,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “Shutting elected representatives out of the very first stages of that process would be a terrible start.”

The number of Southwest Washington representatives who have signed on as co-sponsors is a symbol of unity that has been rare in previous sessions, Pike told The Columbian previously. Republican Reps. Paul Harris of Vancouver, Brandon Vick of Felida, and Lynda Wilson of Vancouver signed on to support the measure, and Democrat Rep. Jim Moeller of Vancouver added his name to the list, along with Wylie.

But the harmony could end in the House.

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said although she’s supportive of any measure that moves the community forward on replacing the bridge, she’s worried the measure only involves eight lawmakers and excludes regional transportation planning bodies.

“Let’s start a discussion that includes everyone,” Cleveland said.

If the bill makes it to the Senate, she said she would work to improve the measure.

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Columbian Political Writer