Washington Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Block Light Rail

In case we weren't sure about how Clark County feels about light rail, Washington legislators introduced a bill yesterday asking for a law to block it.

The bill comes two months after the county voted down a $2.5 million a year sales tax to pay for the operation of an extension of MAX into downtown Vancouver as part of the Columbia River Crossing.

The CRC, the largest infrastructure project the area's ever seen, calls for spending $3.5 billion to replace the Interstate 5 drawbridges, add light rail and beef up five miles of highway and interchanges.

Sponsored by Republican senators Ann Rivers, Don Benton and Jim Honeyford and Democratic Sen. Paull Shin, the proposed law relating to the Washington Department of Transportation reads: "The department is prohibited from expending funds on the design or construction of any project that replaces the bridges on Interstate 5 between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon and includes light rail."

The bill also highlights a fundamental pickle the project's in. Light rail money is a big part of the CRC's funding suppositions: It's hoping the feds come through with $850 million to build the track. The project can't apply for a federal grant until the project figures out a different way to pay for the annual operations and maintenance costs that voters rejected.

What's more, Oregon's progressive backers of the controversial project say including light rail is a non-negotiable.

Oh, and last we heard, the bridge is still too low for the Coast Guard to approve it.