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Jan. 28, 2023

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County council debates I-5 Bridge resolution

Stewart, Quiring take issue with measure city OK’d

By , Columbian politics reporter

The Clark County Council will move forward with a resolution supporting a replacement Interstate 5 Bridge, but Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Eileen Quiring are less than pleased with the decision made by the majority of the council.

“It’s premature, and reacting to something the city has done is not the way Clark County should conduct its business,” Stewart said during council time Wednesday.

The city of Vancouver unanimously approved the same resolution earlier this month. It affirms support for a new bridge featuring high-capacity transit and a dedicated guideway. The city also urged lawmakers to provide funding to the Washington State Department of Transportation to push development of a bridge replacement project forward, as well as stating support for pedestrian and bicycle access on the bridge.

“The trouble is, once this is approved, however it turns out will get its own legs under it. And we could end up saying, ‘That isn’t what I was thinking when I said yes to the resolution,’ ” Stewart continued. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t agree. I do agree that Clark County should be making a statement about what we see is the need for transportation improvement.”

She just didn’t agree with this particular statement, she said. Neither did Quiring.

“The state Legislature has already spoken to this,” Quiring said. “They’ve spoken to the issue that it is a project of state significance, and therefore they are the ones that fund it. To be a copycat of the city I don’t think gives any credence to us.”

She added she doesn’t think the bridge is “functionally obsolete.”

Councilor Julie Olson warned if the council doesn’t approve a resolution with language supporting some form of high-capacity transit, there would be no access to federal dollars.

“I think it is important as electeds and as leaders we step up and we step out and support those things that are going to help economic development,” Olson said.

Stewart, however, doubled down on her opposition.

“I don’t think it’s stepping up to piggyback on somebody else’s plan that mirrors the I-5 crossing that was rejected,” she said.

Councilor John Blom disagreed.

“It’s not piggybacking to show support for an idea. That’s what intergovernmental cooperation is,” Blom said.

Council Chair Marc Boldt said it’s a vague resolution, and passing resolutions is what the council does.

“I’m just shocked this council is feckless in its own leadership on what can be really important for Clark County economic development and its long-term future,” Stewart said. “And there’s several council members that have been absolutely lacking providing any leadership whatsoever from a Clark County standpoint on this.”

Olson asked Stewart if she had any changes she’d like to make before the council moved forward with the resolution.

“Don’t put me in that position when you have failed,” Stewart responded. “You personally have failed in any leadership on getting effective transportation across the river, so don’t try to pin me down on a point.”

With that, Boldt noted a majority vote to move forward, at which point Stewart and Quiring said given the circumstances they did in fact have changes they would like to make to the resolution.

The amended resolution will return to council time Aug. 29 before the governing body formally approves the document.

Columbian politics reporter