Political Beat

Washington legislators make their case against CRC

A group of Washington lawmakers this week made their latest case against the Columbia River Crossing, again urging their Oregon counterparts to put the brakes on the controversial Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

In a letter sent Tuesday, 10 Washington legislators — all Republicans — outlined a long list of objections to the $2.9 billion project that’s now an Oregon-only effort. The revised CRC has cleared one House committee in Oregon so far this year. It now sits before the joint Ways and Means committee in the form of House Bill 4113.

The letter criticizes the project’s one-state model, which opponents say goes against the will of Clark County voters. The group also raised familiar arguments against light rail, tolling, and questioned the revenue forecasts that are the foundation of the CRC’s finance plan.

The letter cited last year’s light rail advisory vote, which directed Clark County commissioners to oppose any light rail project unless it’s first approved by voters. The measure easily passed. Voters in 2012 also rejected a proposed sales tax hike that would have helped cover the annual cost to operate light rail in Vancouver as part of the CRC.

“Instead of proceeding with a flawed and unwelcome project, let’s work together to identify a transportation solution on this important bi-state project that would meet the needs to all our residents on both sides of the Columbia River,” the letter read.

The letter was signed by 10 House and Senate members from Washington’s 17th, 18th, 14th and 20th legislative districts. Among them were Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver.

Washington pulled out of the original CRC last year after its legislature authorized no funding for the project. It was later revived as the Oregon-led version now on the table.

Whether the Zombie CRC has enough support to get through the full Oregon Legislature is unclear. Gov. John Kitzhaber has said he’ll pull the plug on the project (again) if lawmakers don’t approve it this session.

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.

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