Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Calm down on light rail for Clark County

The Columbian issues a staff editorial that can only be read as a rejoinder to those in Clark County who see light rail as some kind of commie plot. After detailing some of the recent notable developments regarding light rail, including the Jan. 23 speech by Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard in which he endorsed it wholeheartedly, the editors go in for the kill:
Last week brought yet another "Ouch!" moment for light-rail opponents, and this time it came from the nation's capital. Even worse, it came from the conservative president whom many of them support. President Bush's new budget request includes almost $175 million for light rail and bus projects in Oregon and Washington state. Portland would receive $80 million under the plan.
That's gotta hurt.

The Interstate Bridge isn't a Republican nor a Democrat, it's a bridge. Calm people will explore the complex issues associated with the idea of replacing it with an eye to the future and an open mind.

And really, some calm has to be a starting point for any rational discussion of how to get people across the river and back. You don't like light rail? Fine. State some rational reasons to oppose it instead of starting web sites that ascribe bad motives to those charged with studying the idea. People are tired of bogus accusations generated in right-wing propaganda mills. For instance, opponents like to charge that light rail is "100-year old technology." By that logic so are jetliners and SUV's.

Light rail isn't perfect. It's enormously expensive and Portland's MAX travel times need some big improvements, especially on the "yellow" line that would also serve Clark County. Bus rapid transit deserves to be studied as well and probably will be studied as things stand now. Light rail is almost certainly not suitable for outlying areas, so a better bus system might be needed. Yes, it would all cost money. Refinements to the cost will hopefully be forthcoming soon so we can better understand how to balance need versus cost.

There are those in Clark County who think the current spans should remain, and there are those who think an "arterial" bridge option should stay in the hunt. We welcome a vigorous, honest discussion, and hope that small bands of extremists do not come to influence the debate much at all.

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