C-Tran pens yet another letter to TriMet

Another week, another letter between C-Tran and TriMet regarding the light rail contract the two agencies signed in 2013.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, C-Tran’s board chair, authored the latest communiqué stating his agency considers the contract, tied to the failed Columbia River Crossing project, “unenforceable.” That followed a letter from TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane earlier this month rejecting C-Tran’s request to jointly terminate the agreement.

Pen pals Leavitt and McFarlane have now exchanged at least four letters on the subject since July.

The contract, inked in September 2013, detailed how C-Tran and TriMet would operate light rail as part of the CRC. When the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement plan imploded this year, it left the contract in limbo. The agreement only takes effect if the CRC is actually funded and built, but it has no end date.

When a few C-Tran board members expressed interest in terminating the contract earlier this year, TriMet said it wouldn’t do so. When C-Tran formally made that request, TriMet didn’t budge.

C-Tran’s latest letter, sent Tuesday, doesn’t press the issue much further.

“C-Tran reiterates that it considers the agreement unenforceable and fully reserves all its legal rights and privileges to resist any attempt to enforce the agreement now or in the future,” Leavitt wrote.

Bottom line: C-Tran doesn’t appear willing to pursue a full termination of the contract by itself. Doing so would risk a costly legal dispute with TriMet. Then there’s the matter of that $5 million penalty written into the agreement for a breach by either party — a clause many opponents objected to.

The whole dust-up may not amount to much in the end. The CRC is still dead, and unlikely to find its second wind (or is that third? fourth?) any time soon. Leavitt recently said he views the contract as “much to-do about nothing.”

Eric Florip

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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