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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Planning body endorses Columbia River Crossing plan for I-5 bridge

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council has narrowly endorsed the staff recommendation by the Columbia River Crossing for a new I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver. The staff recommendation gives three options which are actually more like one option: a Federally required "no-build" option, or a new "mid-level" highway bridge with either light rail or so-called "bus rapid transit."

From The Oregonian:
The majority of the Regional Transportation Council board -- an advisory committee of Clark County elected officials and staff -- eventually stuck to the three finalist options. However, a core led by the three-member Clark County Board of Commissioners attempted to redirect the billion-dollar discussion.


Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart said a fourth option should be considered.

"We have an opportunity to truly lead, to look beyond the existing paradigm, to look beyond a continuation of exactly what we've been doing," Stuart said. He contended that traffic volumes would quickly clog a bigger new Interstate Bridge.
At the risk being too simplistic, there are two main schools of thought developing regarding the new bridge, at least among elected officials. On one side you have the county commissioners, along with one official from an outlying city, raising various concerns and asking for more time. (The Oregonian article notes that a Battle Ground city councilman sided with the county commissioners.)

In the other camp you have the city of Vancouver, allied with the Port of Vancouver, saying that 10 years of study is plenty and let's get on with it. Not to mention that there are rumors that people also live on the other side of the river, who presumably have their own disparate opinions.

What's interesting, politically, is that a generally pro-growth Clark County government potentially has a temporary common interest with "anti-big bridge" folks in Portland, in that the common plea boils down to "more options."

It's doubly interesting given that Clark County almost immediately threw out its 2004 long-range growth plan and is in the midst of revising it to allow for tens of thousands more residents than the 2004 plan called for.

One of the long-standing laments in Clark County is that it has always functioned as a "safety-valve" for Portland, relieving growth pressure that otherwise might become unbearable for our friends south of the river. Perhaps that is no longer really going to work very well, given the limitations of land and transportation capacity in Clark County.

You can read more about the bridge project in my Jan. 30 post "Inside the CRC."

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