The Facebook post read like a call to arms: “the Oregon-only CRC (Columbia River Crossing) is alive.”
The poster, Lindsay Berschauer, a political consultant, alerted a handful of Oregon and Southwest Washington lawmakers by tagging them in the post.
Republican Reps. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, Ore., and Southwest Washington’s Liz Pike took note.
Parrish says she believes the measure, Senate Bill 1510, could offer TriMet a roundabout way of building light rail to Vancouver and possibly resurrecting the failed Columbia River Crossing project. The bill would authorize the agency’s ability to borrow and spend money for projects where it does not operate.
“It puts the mechanism into place to kick-start the conversation, outside of the Legislature,” Parrish said.
Oregon lawmakers are in the midst of an abbreviated 35-day legislative session. Parrish said language tucked into larger bills raised a red flag.
“There are tiny little pieces of language (in this bill) that do really big things,” Parrish said. “I think people on the Washington side should see this as for what it could be, which is a sort of potential to open the door into Vancouver.”
TriMet said the measure has nothing to do with light rail, the Columbia River Crossing or anything that would impact the region.
“We don’t have any plans to operate in Clark County,” said Bernie Bottomly, executive director of public policy at TriMet. “We’re not in conversations about operating there. Nothing in this bill is necessary or intended to advance that conversation.”
In a statement, TriMet said the measure “allows TriMet to spend funds on non-transit capital projects where we don’t operate if the funds come from a voter-approved bond measure or come to TriMet through a reimbursement agreement with local partners.”
The measure is about improving Oregon Highway 217, Bottomly said.
“TriMet has a tool, which is an ability to bond future federal dollars,” he said. “We would like to make that tool available to transportation projects in the region, whether or not TriMet is operating in them.”
Pike, R-Camas, said she introduced a legislative measure on Wednesday to ensure any contract entered with an adjoining state is approved by voters.
Even though the measure wouldn’t be considered until the 2017 Legislature, Pike said, “I think it’s important to put it out there (now).”