McKenna supports tolls on CRC, undecided on other specifics

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna seemed undecided about the current Columbia River Crossing plan and light rail during a meeting last week with The Columbian’s editorial board, though the candidate did say tolls on a new bridge will need to happen.

“If the bridge is unsafe, then, like the (Alaska Way) viaduct, it needs to be replaced,” McKenna said last week when asked about replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. “If it’s not unsafe, then tearing it down and spending three and a half billion dollars — it doesn’t sound like something you want to do right away.”

He continued: “What I want to do is sit down and look and say, ‘What’s the case for doing this? We’ve got limited dollars. Do we need to spend this money now?’ And my second question is, ‘How do we pay for it?'”

He said if the bridge does need to be replace, the financing plan is “going to include tolls. (The) 520 (Bridge) has a toll on it, the Gig Harbor Narrows Bridge has a toll on it. This is how these bridges were built to begin with.”

He added that he would try to make sure tolling is fair for Clark County residents.

During McKenna’s past trips to Clark County, he appeared to generally support replacing the bridge, but he offered plenty of caveats within his answers to CRC questions.

At a recent Rotary meeting in Vancouver, McKenna said replacing the Interstate 5 bridge is “absolutely vital to our economy,” but he said he still wasn’t sure about “what the right replacement looks like, what we can afford, when it needs to be done — all of that.”

During the gubernatorial debate in Vancouver on Aug. 29, McKenna said that “everyone agrees that the Columbia River Crossing is too important to jeopardize” But he also said: “we need to slow down and make sure we’ve got a plan which is financial sustainable.”

Regarding whether light rail should be extending across the new bridge from Portland into Vancouver, McKenna said last week during the editorial board meeting that he would need to sit down and think about that some more, too.

“All I’m saying is that if the modeling shows that light rail across the bridge is the best way to increase transit market share, then that’s the right decision,” he said. “But if it shows, as I’m guessing it does, that (light rail) doesn’t increase transit market share as much or more than buses, wouldn’t it make sense to spend less money and get transit out a lot faster and serve people where they live (by using buses)?”

If you missed the Political Beat’s fact checking post about what McKenna and his rival, Democrat Jay Inslee, said about the Columbia River Crossing during the Vancouver debate, you can check that out here. Inslee meets with The Columbian’s editorial board later this month.

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