Op-Ed: Columbia River Crossing project needs to be inclusive, efficient, transparent, and in the best interest of our communities

Special to The Columbian — March 6, 2011

The Columbia River Crossing has the potential to be our region’s greatest infrastructure accomplishment of the 21st century. With billions of tax dollars involved and the opportunity to better connect people and commerce for generations to come, it’s critical that we get it right. This requires accurate information and public involvement in the process.

Our goals for the Columbia River Crossing are simple:

First, we want to build the best infrastructure today to meet the needs of our communities in the future.

Second, we want to ensure every tax dollar dedicated to the project is accounted for and used wisely.

Finally, we want the people we represent to have a voice in the final design to guarantee that it is the right bridge for our communities.

For these goals to be met, we must be assured that all the choices have been thoroughly considered in an open and transparent manner — including a no-light-rail and a no-toll option.

Because we know not all options have been considered, the process has often been unfair, uncertain and opaque for citizens who want to be involved. The actions of the Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council, at best, are disconcerting. We are disappointed that with more than $115 million spent on the project to date, the people of our communities were led to believe there were no options and the design of the bridge was settled, including that a $1 billion light-rail component was necessary to secure federal funding. We later learned light rail was not a requirement for federal funding — it never has been.

The recent public outcry over the lack of transparency from the Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council should have them on notice that all of their actions and decisions — past, present and future — will be met with great scrutiny.

We are now at a critical juncture of the project with respect to our third goal. There are three proposed bridge designs that vary in size, scope and price. These designs are: tied arch ($430 million), cable-stayed ($390 million) and deck truss ($340 million). The Oregon and Washington transportation departments issued a draft recommendation for the deck truss design on Feb. 25.

The final design recommendation will come in mid-March, following public input.

Comment meetings

Now is the time for your voice to be heard. Public comment meetings are scheduled for Thursday, March 10, in Portland and Vancouver. From noon to 2 p.m., the Columbia River Crossing listening session will be at the Portland Expo Center, Hall D, 2060 N. Marine Drive.

From 6 to 8 p.m., a CRC listening session is scheduled at the Washington State Department of Transportation Southwest Region Building, 11018 N.E. 51st Circle in Vancouver.

Comments can also be submitted in various ways by going to http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/ and clicking on “Get Involved.”

We are closely studying the pros and cons of each proposed design, and we are meeting with constituents and stakeholder groups. For us, this must be a collaborative process. We invite citizens to contact us if they have any questions, comments or concerns.

In closing, we want Clark County citizens to know that we are united in the expectation that the Columbia River Crossing project be inclusive, efficient, transparent, and in the best interest of our communities. We are optimistic for these outcomes.

State Senator Don Benton, 17th District
State Representative Paul Harris, 17th District
State Representative Ed Orcutt, 18th District
State Representative Ann Rivers, 18th District

State Representative Ed Orcutt, 20th Legislative District
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000