Political Beat

Cleveland to Oregon legislators: Don’t listen to that outspoken CRC critic from Washington

State Sen. Annette Cleveland seemed to fire back on Monday against her colleague, Sen. Don Benton, who reportedly sent a letter to Oregon legislators late last week that blasted the Columbia River Crossing project.

State Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, speaks at a public meeting in March about the Columbia River Crossing.

State Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, speaks at a public meeting in March about the Columbia River Crossing.

Cleveland told Oregon state lawmakers, who are deciding whether to support a $2.75 billion Oregon-led CRC, that she doesn’t want them to be “misled by an overly vocal minority from our side of the river.”

In her statement, the Vancouver Democrat said: “The most vociferous opposition to the CRC has come from a Washington lawmaker who represents a district miles from the existing Interstate 5 bridges. Oregon lawmakers should know that the Washington lawmakers in the district most central to the bridge and where the bridge is located strongly support the CRC.”

Cleveland, who represents Vancouver west of Interstate 205, does not divulge who this vociferously opposed lawmaker is. But Benton, R-Vancouver, has been vocal in his opposition to the CRC, and he did send a letter just last week telling Oregon lawmakers to let the embattled CRC die. Benton represents the 17th District, which includes a portion of Clark County east of I-205.

The CRC was declared dead after Washington lawmakers declined to commit Washington’s share; Oregon legislators had said they would only commit their share if Washington did. Since then, a new version of the CRC has emerged as a pared-down effort with Oregon solely at the helm. It would still replace the Interstate 5 Bridge and bring Portland’s light rail to Vancouver, but it wouldn’t update any Washington freeway interchanges north of state Highway 14.

“It’s important to remember that a post-session proposal from a group of business leaders from both sides of the Columbia River wrote to urge Gov. Inslee to work with Gov. Kitzhaber to explore their new proposal which satisfies all concerns Republicans put forth in the 2013 session,” Cleveland wrote. “This plan does not require new taxes and the funding to include light rail will come from the federal government, not from Washington taxpayers.”

Under the new CRC plan, Clark County’s C-Tran would still need to come up with a way to pay for maintaining and operating light rail in Vancouver once the line is built.

Cleveland said replacing the I-5 Bridge over the Columbia River remains a major safety and economic issue for Clark County, and the Pacific Northwest.

Cleveland also said the vocal minority from the Washington side of the river is providing misleading information to Oregon lawmakers, who “should know that a majority of Washington legislators support the Columbia River Crossing project,” she wrote. “I believe a revenue package that funded the CRC would have passed in our 2013 legislative session if the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus had not blocked it from coming to the floor for a vote.”

A majority in the Democrat-controlled Washington House approved a $10 billion transportation revenue plan that would have included Washington’s $450 million share for the CRC. That transportation package, however, did not receive a vote in the Washington Senate, which is controlled by a group of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.

Senate Republicans now point out that House members did not pass the transportation package’s bonding bill. Supporters of the package, however, say that bonding bill could have been passed next year without much effect on the plan.

Stevie Mathieu

Stevie Mathieu is a political writer at The Columbian. Contact her at 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics.

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