By Stevie Mathieu, February 8, 2013, The Columbian
Concerns with the height of the proposed Columbia River Crossing are “legitimate,” but they aren’t a good enough reason for starting over on the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project, three legislators from Vancouver told Gov. Jay Inslee in a letter.
The letter, signed by state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, and state Reps. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, stated that “it is possible and critical to address community concerns and not back away from current commitments with Oregon and the federal government to build a replacement bridge.”
Their letter comes a few days after Republican legislators from Clark County told the U.S. Coast Guard, which has permitting authority over the bridge, that the planned 116-foot height for the new span would prevent some businesses’ river vessels from traveling up and down the river. The I-5 Bridge can lift to a height of 178 feet to let river traffic through.
Republican lawmakers also have called for removing light rail from the project.
Cleveland, Moeller and Wylie said that although some tweaks have been needed for the project, it’s too late for a CRC redesign. The project needs to move forward for the economic success of the region, they said.
“We agree that continued questioning of costs, intelligent adjustment to changing conditions and response to concerns of citizens are imperative when investing so many taxpayer dollars,” they wrote. “However, our duty to stringent oversight should not derail or slow the project.”
The impacts of a 116-foot bridge can be mitigated as the project moves forward, they wrote. They also said arguing over how many lanes the bridge should have or whether to scrap light rail plans is “destructive to (the) completion of the project.”
Those decisions have been made, and they were “part of a process that multiple partners have agreed to,” the letter states.
Cleveland, Moeller and Wylie said they support a CRC with light rail because its operation costs are less than buses, because gas prices are on the rise, and because the Vancouver area is expected to grow by more than 100,000 people by 2025.
“That is only 12 years (away), and we need strong transit options for commuters and families,” they wrote.
On the campaign trail, Inslee, a Democrat, said he supported the Columbia River Crossing project and including light rail transit on the new bridge.