Friday, February 01, 2013

Elected Officials Raise More Questions On CRC

From 3rd Congressional District Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, to 17th Legislative District Senator Don Benton and to 14th Legislative District Senator Curtis King, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, critical questions are beginning to be asked and recommendations made to clear up the many discrepancies surrounding the Columbia River Crossing project.

Senator Benton has long been a critic, having seen early on in the project that it could not live up to promises or expectations and would be a massive waste of tax dollars as planned. His calls and cries for reining the project and the steady flow of tax dollars in, over $160 Million to date, have been largely ignored and cast aside as what now appears to be the biggest swindle ever to hit Southwest Washington forged ahead amidst growing public opposition.

After many years of inaction by elected officials and the increasing public outcry for accountability and transparency, the public growing tired of the ‘trust us, we know what we’re doing’ attitude of the CRC and C-TRAN, other legislative voices are joining Senator Benton’s and even Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, who initially seemed to be waiting for someone to give her a position on it now seems to be increasing her own opposition, enlisting the aid of 5th Congressional District Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 4th Congressional District Representative Doc Hastings and Idaho 1st Congressional District Representative Raul Labrador in calling on the Coast Guard for a “full study of the economic impacts of Columbia River Crossing” before permitting the bridge “mitigated height,” having earlier denied the CRC a permit due to the bridge design presented being grossly inadequate for river traffic.

While her continued opposition is uncertain, I welcome this effort to achieve more transparency with the CRC.

Not uncertain is the continuing efforts of Senator Don Benton for not only transparency, but accountability as he seeks answers to a growing list of problems and discrepancies. Acting on behalf of Sharon Nasset of Third Bridge Now, Senator Benton requested the Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter M. Rogoff to verify the locations of the light rail stations in regards to employment within a 1/2 mile radius at Delta Park in Portland where currently there is a Golf Course, a Race Track and a protected wildlife wetlands, outlined in an analysis of CRC claims prepared by Ms. Nasset’s group.

A July 24, 2012 response from Mr. Rogoff basically diverted the responsibility for verification back onto “local decisions makers,” or if you will, WSDOT, ODOT, Clark County Public Transit Benefit Authority, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District, Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council and Portland Metro.

Also stated was,
“Local project sponsors have provided sufficient documentation to FTA that demonstrates that the LRT stations proposed as part of the CRC project are reasonably located within a ½-mile radius of employment areas identified within your incoming letter.”
The documentation might be sufficient for the FTA, but they apparently don’t bother to ever look or verify claims made by local project sponsors. If they had, how could they miss the light rail stations are located adjacent to a Race Track, Golf Course and protected wildlife wetlands?

The request for verification was submitted to C-TRAN director Jeff Hamm early this month, January 2013. Not receiving a response, his office was contacted by Ms. Nasset only to be told Mr. Hamm never received such a request. After a prompting from Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s office to please respond, late this afternoon Mr. Hamm finally replied.

As I viewed the reply, I notice it really isn’t a reply for verification on the location of the light rail stations planned for Delta Park, projecting business and job growth in the half-mile radius, but a clarification of “incorrectly cited information from the CRC Draft Components Step A Screening Report, March 22, 2006 regarding travel from five geographic subareas in Portland” in regards to the use of the term “transit riders” in Senator Benton’s letter that “are in fact person trips.”

Also, Mr. Hamm found it necessary to remind Ms. Nasset,
“Note that in FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff’s July 24, 2012 response letter to Senator Benton he states: ‘Local project sponsors have provided sufficient documentation to FTA that demonstrates that the LRT stations proposed as part of the CRC project are reasonably located within a ½ mile radius of the employment areas identified within your incoming letter’.”
In reality, nothing that we don’t see every time efforts are made to shine light on this swindle and get some transparency on claims made of what benefits are in store that just doesn’t add up. Then too, it leaves us wondering why it took Mr. Hamm as long as it did to respond with his diversion?

A very welcome voice from the Washington State Senate was added today as I received a copy of a letter sent to newly installed Governor Jay Inslee from 14th Legislative District Senator Curtis King, who is also co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, calling for a change in direction of the project.

Sen. King calls upon Governor Inslee to advocate a Bridge Project that should include sufficient bridge clearance, better traffic flow, eliminates costly light rail, has fiscally prudent transit options and enough capacity for vehicle traffic by designing a one-tier bridge with ten traffic lanes in his Five-Point plan.

This alone was enough to send 49th Legislative District Representative Jim Moeller, a staunch supporter of the current swindle off on one of his usual tangents seen whenever something he supports is questioned.

Under comments at the Columbian’s brief coverage of the letter Moeller rants,
“Sen. King is essentially asking for re-design ‘do over’. A new bridge design that would put us out of the federal funding window for a generation. Over 10 years of study, 160 million dollars spent by both states, expert review panels, six independent governmental agencies approval, a locally preferred alternative and a federal record of decision have already been completed. Sen King proposes 10 lanes, BRT instead of LTR and a lift section among others. All these ideas have evaluated and rejected through an extensive, professional and local process.”
Jim Moeller too seems unaware, or uninterested if you will, of plans to construct light rail stations planned to draw businesses and jobs at a protected wildlife wetlands.

But neither he nor the Columbian have shown much interest in shining any light onto this Multi-Billion swindle that has the sole purpose of forcing Clark County Washington residents into not only accepting Portland, Oregon’s financially troubled light rail, but paying for it along with several other projects in Oregon well outside of the so-called CRC benefit zone.

And yes, Jim, not only is Sen. King asking for a redesign, but your constituents’ have been as well. If we are going to get stuck paying generations of tolls, uproot established businesses in our city, displace hundreds or more jobs, we deserve a bridge that will at least suit our needs, one that we can afford and will not restrict river traffic that would cause the loss of jobs upriver.

In spite of grandiose claims, it has been shown that light rail will only improve travel time for commuters at peak traffic hours by one minute, at most. It has been shown that there is not enough ridership in Clark County to sustain a light rail line that will only extend a couple miles into Clark County with funds going to Portland, Oregon and not circulating in our own struggling community.

Most of all, it has been shown that the only way to really reduce congestion through the I-5 corridor if for Oregon to step up and widen the freeway through their Rose Quarter and Terwilliger Curves area, the two main bottlenecks in Portland. It I also know that Oregon has stated they have no intention of widening those areas, making the new bridge with the same number of traffic lanes as we now have futile.

And not to forget, voters in Clark County have been denied a direct vote on light rail from Portland ever since we first rejected it by a 2 to 1 margin back in 1995. But plans move forwards as if the people no longer matter, other than we are pandered to by politicians for our vote.

Our voices grow louder as our numbers grow to put a stop to this swindle and get a design going that will actually benefit us, not a handful of wealthy promoters pushing these light rail projects off on people all over the country.

We’ve been told time and again that light rail is coming, get used to it.

To those with that attitude, click here.

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