Now that Clark County voters have said no to a light-rail sales tax, the county’s Congresswoman is saying "no" to the Columbia River Crossing.
The Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River needs a redesign, says U.S. Rep Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and nine other Republican lawmakers in a statement released today. Voters in Clark County rejected Proposition 1, a 0.1 percent sales tax hike that would have paid for operations and maintenance of light rail from Portland to downtown Vancouver.
The statement sets the stage for a new point of tension between Vancouver and Portland. While Southwest Washington lawmakers are fighting light rail, Portland officials have long said that light rail is nonnegotiable.
CRC critics in Clark County viewed the light rail vote as a mandate on the entire $3.5 billion megaproject. Herrera Beutler told WW that as that vote goes, so does her favor for the project.
“Clark County citizens sent a message with their ballots on Proposition 1: it’s time to revise the plan to replace this bridge,” today's statement says. “The failure of Proposition 1 is only the latest in a number of major financing, design and process challenges to the CRC’s preferred alternative. While we believe the current I5 bridge is inadequate and must be addressed, a new direction is needed.”
The Congresswoman has said previously that bus rapid transit or another form of transit may be more appropriate for the bridge.
Herrera Beutler's statement also points out a slate of problems. They include financing the CRC; its height, which is too low to get approval from the Coast Guard; lack of input from citizens; and the area’s large resistance to tolls.
Herrera Beutler, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, isn't doing the beleaguered CRC any favors. However, the project still has powerful allies, including the Obama administration and high-ranking U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who today reaffirmed that the project is one of her top priorities.