Kent: Federal officials should head I-5 bridge replacement

As efforts to fund the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project come closer to fruition, several aspects of the proposed project have received scrutiny from Joe Kent, one of next year’s election contenders to lead Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.

One main issue for Kent: the light rail that will almost certainly span the new bridge.

“I think everybody in the district knows that the bridge needs to be replaced,” Kent said on a Facebook livestream Friday. “We already have massive problems with homelessness and crime … nothing is going to destroy the progress that we have seen in downtown Vancouver faster than putting high speed light rail from Portland into Vancouver onto this bridge.”

Last year, The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, C-Tran, TriMet and Vancouver city staff decided to implement a MAX light rail station in Vancouver, citing the environmental and commuter benefits.

Kent said on the livestream that Clark County voters have clearly expressed their opposition through three different measures that were struck down. However, voters have never been directly asked if they want to extend TriMet’s light rail system into Vancouver — two of the three measures were tied to tax increases.

It is unclear how much Oregon will contribute to the project from another contested pay option: tolls. Kent said that tolls would unfairly hurt Washington workers who commute to Oregon daily, calling the option “absolutely ridiculous,” and stating that “Oregon is shoving this down our throat.”

Homelessness and crime was a main talking point for Kent, who said opening a light rail option will increase crime and homelessness in Vancouver.

Kent suggested that if elected, he would pressure the federal government to take charge of the project due to it being a multi-state issue that affects a large commerce corridor. The federal government is expected to spend about $2.5 billion out of the estimated $5 billion to $7.5 billion total cost.

“I think the federal government needs to pony up the vast majority of the funds for this,” Kent said. “Oregon really wants to put tolls on their sides. You really have to ask yourself, how many times do we have to pay for this thing?”

— Carlos Fuentes

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