Transcript of CRC answer during last night’s debate
A story published today in The Columbian touched on what gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna said during Wednesday night’s debate at Washington State University Vancouver. But, if you want to read their entire answers to the Columbia River Crossing question, I’ve included a transcript of those answers below. If you missed the debate, you can watch it on KATU-TV’s website. Also, check out a transcript of The Columbian’s live blog that took place during the debate.
Moderator Brian Wood: “The president just put the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia on the fast track. Proponents, especially those in the business community, say it is essential. Critics call it unnecessarily expensive, and it will quickly become congested. There are of course issues with design, issues with tolling, issues with light rail. … Do you support the CRC? Specifically where and how will you find the state funding for it?”
McKenna: “Look, everyone agrees that the Columbia River Crossing is too important to jeopardize. It’s a crucial corridor for regional commerce, and I would say for national commerce as well. And so it’s very, very important that we have a plan that is financially feasible as well a plan that will meet the needs for transportation in this corridor for many years to come.
“So, let’s talk about how it’s going to be paid for. Right now, the heaviest burden falls on Washington state tax payers under the plans that have been unveiled. In particular, on people who live in Clark County, over 50,000 of whom cross the bridge twice a day to commute to work. It’s about 11,000 coming up from Oregon, so clearly the burden will fall more on Washington commuters than on Oregon. Therefore, they have some very good questions that they’re asking, and I think that until those questions are answered, we need to slow down and make sure we’ve got a plan which is financial sustainable.
“One question is: why aren’t the federal government agencies involved putting more money into the basic cost of the bridge. Right now, it’s a third, a third, a third — Oregon, Washington and the federal government — not counting tolls. And we already said where most of that toll money is going to come from. So I think that the state will have to come up with a plan. I propose putting one on the ballot that’s a package that includes money for this project, but we have to have the answers to the full funding package first.”
Inslee: “Let’s just make this clear. This is not just a Southwest Washington imperative. It is not just a Washington imperative. It is a national imperative for the economic well being of this country that we in fact move forward to build this bridge. And I think the first thing that anyone aspiring to leadership needs to say is that failure is not an option in building this bridge. That means that all of us are going to have to do some hard work to reach a consensus on the financing package on how to do that. And it is hard. Building bridges are hard.
“Two principles we’ve got to follow: One, the residents of Clark County have got to have a vigorous, strong statement and way to be heard on this issue. And second, we have to look at reality. Look, reality’s tough sometimes, and here’s a reality: This bridge will not be built unless we as a community figure out how to get light rail onto this bridge. Now this is a reality. It is important for those who want to lead the state to say that. Because if we’re going to depend on these hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government, we are going to have to have leadership that will make sure that we get this light rail built. I will do that. We will have a package, and I will be working on it to fund the very significant state funding that will be involved.”
McKenna: “Light rail is an important priority for Oregon for sure. They’re the ones who are demanding it. It isn’t nearly as clear that it’s the priority of Washington commuters and taxpayers. And we’ll see what the vote is in the C-Tran voting area in November. That’s going to tell us a lot.”
Inslee: “Leaders sometimes have to talk about difficult issues. this is a difficult issue. We all have our favorite modes of transportation. Light rail is not universally accepted. But it is a reality of federal law that to get those hundreds of millions of dollars so we don’t have to have a higher toll in Clark County, we’ll need to find a way to have a consensus on light rail. I hope to work with everyone in this community to develop that consensus.”