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Washington Transportation Co-Chair: CRC Needs New Direction

The open rebellion against the Columbia River Crossing project in Washington continues.

Even as Oregon legislators have put $450 million for the project on the fast track, Washington Senate Transportation Committee Co-Chair Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), is calling for a major overhaul of the $3.5 billion project—including chucking light rail.

In a Jan. 31 letter to Gov. Jay Inslee obtained by WW, King, who served on the Washington Legislative Oversight Committee on the CRC, says final environmental plans should be rescinded and reworked.

Among King's major changes and critiques are:

  1. Replacing light rail to downtown Vancouver across the Interstate 5 bridges with bus rapid transit in a dedicated lane.
  2. Considering a lift span for the bridge, or at least raising its height. King says legislators were told a 190-foot bridge would conflict with the flight pattern for nearby Pearson Airfield in Vancouver. However, King notes, the current bridge's columns are 245 feet high.
  3. Reworking the project to increase traffic flow. The CRC will only save 60 seconds for commuters, King writes. "Why should we spend $3.5 billion in capital costs to save a typical commuter one minute?" he writes. The bottleneck at the Rose Quarter must also be addressed, he says.
  4. Adding lanes to the bridge to ensure traffic flow.

The letter doesn't bode well for a vote this year on the CRC in Washington, which planners have repeatedly stressed is critical to keep the project in line for federal funding.

"I don't believe we can consider $450 million for the current CRC project until the above changes have been made, which will result in a lower burden for both toll payers and tax payers," King concludes.

King's letter follows a vote by the Clark County Commissioners this week to oppose the CRC, and a lawsuit filed to force Vancouver into a vote over light rail.