When it comes to transportation, Southwest Washington Republicans serving in the statehouse said their top priority is fixing the Interstate 5 corridor.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Columbian’s editorial board Thursday, the region’s Republican representatives were asked to rank the level of importance between improving the I-5 corridor, building a west-county bridge over the Columbia River, or building an east-county bridge over the river.
The local Republicans presented a unified answer.
“My priority is … fixing the I-5 corridor,” said Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, who championed a measure in the state Legislature that attempted to renew work between Oregon and Washington lawmakers to address the Interstate 5 Bridge.
The measure fizzled, but Pike said she will try again in the next legislative session. Southwest Washington’s representatives signed on to the measure, but many said a lack of support in the Senate killed the bill.
Pike said she recently met with Republican Sen. Curtis King, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and asked him how she could improve the measure so it garners support in the upper chamber.
“He said, ‘Liz, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s perfect. It’s a great idea,’ ” Pike told the editorial board. She said she hopes he leads the charge in pushing the measure in the Senate next session.
House Bill 2414 would have carved out $100,000 to create a work group of lawmakers from both sides of the river to discuss how to reduce congestion over the Columbia River.
It became clear this session, three years after the Washington Legislature voted to kill the Columbia River Crossing project, that any conversation about possible crossings or upgrades remains contentious. Pike also said it’s possible that the $100,000 isn’t necessary, and she plans to continue to meet with lawmakers on both sides of the river to try to build consensus despite the measure’s demise.
Earlier this legislative session, Clark County Councilor David Madore said the bill could allow for the discussion of multiple crossings over the Columbia River. Madore is a vocal advocate of the no-toll east county bridge idea he has proposed. At the time, Pike said it was possible a bistate bridge coalition could discuss a variety of crossings over the Columbia. But she made it clear Thursday that the Interstate 5 corridor is her top priority.
During the editorial board meeting, Reps. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and Brandon Vick, R-Felida, also said improving the I-5 corridor was a higher priority than building a new bridge west or east of the I-5 Bridge.
All four representatives also touched on the ongoing budget negotiations in Olympia and how next year the state will need to address fully funding education.
They said they would support whoever wins their party’s presidential nomination and gave credit to Donald Trump for activating a broader base and fostering a vibrant conversation.
Briefly delving into county politics, Pike said she was hoping that with the new Clark County council, “there would be a lot more civility.”
Wilson said that after working with Councilor Madore on an issue, she was spurred to share one of her favorite proverbs with him: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
“You have to work together, and what I see here in this particular element is that there is a whole lot of going it alone,” Wilson said. “And you have to have buy-in, you have to have people owning the issues in order to go anywhere and to get to the best answer, the best result, for the people, right? Ultimately, that’s what we’re after is the best result for Clark County.”