Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving the CRC Project Forward

The Columbia River Crossing project is an incredibly important, incredibly volatile effort that links federal government, two states, and many local cities and county areas. All of the stakeholders involved have agreed that an improvement project for the I-5 corridor is absolutely necessary to insure the economic vitality, public safety, and environmental stewardship of our future.

While there are many aspects of the proposed project that local stakeholders agree on, several important matters remain unresolved in the eyes of the local elected officials.

And because of these differences, progress on the project ground to a halt in December.

Seeing this, I personally contacted the three other local elected officials that serve on the CRC Project Sponsors Council: Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, and Metro Council President David Bragdon.

We have met several times, informally, over the last couple months. The purpose of these meetings has been to chart a course for addressing outstanding concerns and moving the project forward. These meetings were held in public locations, both in Vancouver and Portland.

Through these conversations, each of us clarified specific issues to be addressed, and then co-authored a letter to Governors Gregoire and Kulongoski, the two individuals who appointed us to the CRC Project Sponsors Council.

In this letter, the full text of which is available here, we indicated that the project as currently proposed still results in unacceptable impacts to certain aspects of our region. To be clear, the matters of concern primarily reside within Oregon. I respect the concerns expressed by Mayor Adams and President Bragdon about impacts to Hayden Island, in particular.

We stated that in order for us to best represent our constituents, we are requesting a stronger partnership with our State and Federal stakeholders, including a stronger local role in shaping the CRC project. We remain committed to finding a solution that is appropriately designed, financed and managed.

The Vancouver City Council has taken several formal actions regarding the CRC project – most important of which is the formal resolution endorsing the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). That resolution states the Council’s wishes for a replacement bridge with light rail transit. 

In our letter to the Governors, support for the LPA was re-affirmed, and we explicitly asked for more support of local involvement in the planning. I signed that letter in good faith with the three other elected officials, acting in what I believed—and still do believe—to be the best interests of the people of Vancouver. We MUST have an improvement to the I-5 corridor to maintain freight access, be environmentally conscious, increase mobility and commerce, and be considerate of the impacts to our communities on both sides of the river.

Accusations to the contrary, from the community at large and from my fellow council members, are baseless. I’m hopeful the remarks of consternation are due to lack of attention to the project, to the process and to the letter. Otherwise, ulterior and disingenuous motives may be at play.

I will not tolerate grandstanding by those who seek to use this moment as an effort to dismantle this project and the years and millions of dollars invested in the environmental assessment, public involvement, and design effort. As the tough decisions near, those who seek to scuttle this effort will increase in volume and tenacity. Leadership must stand strong and united in moving forward, effectively.

On Monday at 3pm, the Council and I will discuss the current state of the CRC project with City staff. We will also discuss the letter I co-authored. We will continue to move forward with a majority of supporters, if not a consensus.