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

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

CRC task force favors extra alternative

The news is in late this evening about the CRC task force vote tonight, and it appears an extra alternative has survived. From The Columbian:
After a four-hour meeting attended by more than 100 people, the Columbia River Crossing group voted 33-0 to launch its draft environmental impact statement (EIS), which will look in detail at replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge with a new bridge that includes mass transit.

But the panel also agreed to draft an additional alternative for inclusion in the draft EIS. It will be considered at its March 27 meeting.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, who will be on the committee drafting the new alternative, said he expects to see it include lower cost ways to move more people and consider keeping the existing I-5 Bridge.

The compromise means the draft EIS can get started even with the new alternative under study. Henry Hewitt, the task force co-chairman, said he expects the new alternative will be included in the draft EIS.
Lora Caine, President of Friends of Clark County and a task force member, says that Rex Burkholder of (Oregon) Metro offered an amendment, which she typed and emailed to me:
On February 22, 2007, the Metro council adopted the attached resolution regarding the alternatives to be considered by the CRC Task Force for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The resolution supports:

1. Including the staff recommendation in the DEIS.
2. Adding an additional alternative that would analyze a supplemental bridge for use by autos, trucks, high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians and retain the existing bridges for a variety of objectives.
3. Analyzing in the DEIS a variety of issues relating to land-use, tolling, environmental justice, access issues on Hayden Island, and TDM/TSM measures.

I am, therefore, recommending to the Task Force that a subcommittee of the Task Force be formed with the charge to return to our next meeting with the more defined alternative that would be analyzed in the DEIS. I would expect that the subcommittee would work closely with CRC staff to develop an alternative that would offer the most practical alternative for reuse of the existing bridges and meet the Metro Council's objectives.

Thank you for consideration of this request.
Caine also had this to report about the vote on the amendment (these are Caine's words now:)
In the end, the vote went 26 for adding the amendment (-ed. out of a possible 39) with Mayor Pollard and Dean Lookingbill voting against the amendment (others, too but didn't see who they were). There were two task force members on the phone with a staff person who put in their no vote, too. They were representing trucking and freight mobility. It was unanimous for accepting the staff recommendation of the three options.

On March 27th, the subcommittee, led by Rex Burkholder which includes Steve Stuart, will come back with a report. It is expected at that time to have an alternative in simplified form for another up-or-down vote from the task force.
Offhand it sounds like a pretty reasonable compromise, given the magnitude of the project.

Studying things costs money, as many folks have frequently pointed out, but it may very well be worth it to include the "Burkholder-Stuart" alternative to help build the consensus this project is going to need.

The "land-use" bit still puzzles me, as it would seem to imply that changes in Clark County land use would be required. Whether that would impact the current efforts to revise the Comprehensive Plan by expanding the UGB's is not clear.

UPDATE 7:00 AM Feb. 28-- Chris Smith over at Portland Transport calls last night's decision a "mildly positive" outcome, but he has reservations.
So good news for the moment, but I wonder about the longer term. Clark County Chair Steve Stuart openly opined that staff would try to kill the 4th option before it was born, and I fear that he may be right. There was much discussion of the new option needing to "meet the Purpose and Need" and pass "the same criteria" as the other options (and many feel the criteria applied are actually much more stringent than what the Purpose and Need statement requires).

So whatever comes out of the subcommittee is likely to face an uphill climb. And if no fourth option survives, I think the task force may well splinter permanently.

Rex will chair the subcommittee. Let's see if he can navigate his way out of the box.
I was lucky enough to attend a forum in January where Smith was one of the panelists, and he presents his views well without being at all nasty about it; a true gift these days.

Smith (and Stuart) are probably right about the "extra option" not faring well in the end. CRC staff has repeatedly said a supplemental bridge will face a host of problems, like dumping too much traffic into downtown Vancouver, and re-using the existing bridges is both incredibly expensive and impractical. That being said, it's definitely worth taking the time to look at these issues in more detail.

CLARIFICATION 9:20 AM Feb. 28-- According to The Oregonian, the task force vote was 26-7 in favor of the Burkholder amendment, as six task force members were absent.

<< Home