Puppies, babies and the Columbia River Crossing

Before Monday’s Clash That Wasn’t, the Vancouver City Council received an annual update on the Columbia River Crossing from director Nancy Boyd. Most of the information was covered in Eric Florip’s Sunday story about how 2013 will be a critical year for the mega-project.

I did wonder how much of the presentation was for the benefit of CRC critics who claim there hasn’t been sufficient public input. Specifically, this slide:


Or maybe the project history timeline is included in every one of Boyd’s presentations.

At the end of the workshop, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt opened his mouth and erased any questions I had about whether some of meeting was for the benefit of critics.

Leavitt thanked Boyd and other key figures for the update.

Then he launched into a speech, albeit one that obviously wasn’t rehearsed because he didn’t always speak in complete sentences.

First, Leavitt said his predecessor attended 23 meetings of the Columbia River Crossing task force, and he has attended 20 meetings of the Project Sponsors Council.

Those represent just a tiny fraction of the total number of meetings.

“To learn that there have been over a 1,000 events, 30,000 participants over the past 11 years, and to understand that we as a region are so intimately tied to trade, around the country and the world,” Leavitt said. “And that some 140,000 jobs in this region are tied to those trade industries that are so important at the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Portland, and the important role that the I-5 crossing and this corridor plays in the existence of those jobs and the growth of new jobs,” he said, leading up to his point.

“I am baffled by, frankly, ongoing arguments and opposition to the project. It’s … if we think about the future and the fact that the real pain, and the real punishment to our community, would be a failure of this project, a failure to complete this project,” Leavitt said. “Because there’s been all this talk about how much it is going to cost, all this talk about state and federal dollars. We’ve known anecdotally what the cost would be to our community if we don’t fix this antiquated infrastructure,” he said.

“But now that you’ve delivered, that the CRC has delivered this economics benefits analysis, we have numbers, based on legitimate formulas, that have estimated the cost to our region, and the savings to our region with an improvement in this corridor. The cost is identified on what the local impact, the local share would be. When you compare that … to the savings, it’s less than one-half of one percent to the travelers of our region,” he continued.

“I don’t know anybody who likes the idea of having to pay tolls. I certainly don’t, I can assure you of that. But I have yet to hear an alternative that does not cost our local taxpayers more money. I have yet to hear an alternative to local financing, I have yet to hear an alternative in the way of a project that does not cost our taxpayers more money or have more detrimental impacts to our community, from an environmental, from a quality of life, from a congestion perspective,” he said.

“We’ve done our work here at the local level, as far as the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process goes. We did our homework, we submitted it to the federal government, they gave us a Record of Decision,” Leavitt said.

He went on to tell Boyd that the city staff will continue to work with CRC staff on details about the impact to downtown, and final design work.

Here’s how he finished:

“Anything that we can do to help deliver a message to state legislators from other parts of the state of Washington, and in Oregon, who have not been involved in this project, who have come in at the 11th hour, and pretend to know what this region needs, what the details of this project are, if we can help deliver a message of our involvement in this project over the past 11 years, the public’s involvement in this project, and how important this project is to future generations, to quality of life in our area, you let us know.”

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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