Burning Bridges or Building Bridges?

by lewwaters
Liz Pike & Ann Rivers

Liz Pike & Ann Rivers

If there ever was a doubt in your mind that the Columbia River Crossing was not really about replacing the aging, but useable bridges crossing the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, disgruntled proponents of now comatose project lay that to rest.

All along, through to excessive years of planning, studying, lying, obfuscating and coercing of the public in order to force Portland’s financially struggling light rail a very short distance into Clark County, thereby accessing a fresh revenue source for their folly, opponents in Clark County have voiced support for not only a bridge without light rail, but more crossings to the east and the west of the current crossing.

Anybody with a slight bit of sense realizes that an eight to ten year period of construction of new bridges alongside the existing span is bound to increase traffic congestion. With the movement of construction worker and equipment, it is unavoidable, that is a given.

But, narrow minded, single focus light rail proponents have long ignored that little part, even though one of their claims was they were about ending congestion along the crowded corridor.

Shortly before his long overdue retirement, Lazy C’s bombastic & vitriolic editorial page editor, John Laird penned a screed where he labeled third bridge advocates “cockroaches” along with a reminder from a 1995 editorial, “Oregon has already invested millions (today billions) in a metropolitan light rail system; Clark County hasn’t spent a dime on a third bridge. Like it or not, light rail has the upper hand. That doesn’t mean Clark County must accept light rail. It does mean that without realistic alternatives — and a third bridge isn’t one of them — gridlock will get worse, air quality will decline and quality of life will suffer.”

Left out is that Washington didn’t invest in a third bridge because light rail ruled the project from the start, in spite of the 1995 vote where it was rejected by Clark County voter by a 2 to 1 margin.

In fact, an Oregon Supreme Court ruling exposed that light rail was the driving factor of the Columbia River Crossing, a little fact ignored completely by John Laird and the Lazy C throughout the process.

Fast forward and today we see that legislators from both Washington and Oregon declined to provide further funding to the project, putting it in a comatose state. I say comatose because we know sooner or later, some fool is going to try to once again revive it with another effort to force light rail on Clark County from Portland. It’s just a matter of time.

In the meantime, we still have but two crossings between the states locally with the corridors filled beyond capacity and sensible people still seeking more crossings to relieve the pressure, realizing that Portland apparently once saw the need for additional crossings what with some 9 bridges crossing the Willamette River just in downtown Portland.

To that end, Washington State Senator Ann Rivers (R 18) and Representative Liz Pike (R 18) have called together what Rep. Pike labeled the “Bistate Bridge Crossing Coalition,” reaching out to Oregon and Washington legislators, bruised as they might be, to begin anew a discussion, an honest discussion this time for what is really needed, not just what is wanted by Portland to help pay for their folly and financial mess of light rail on the backs of Clark County commuters and citizens. (My words, not theirs)

Pike adds, “Let’s start at the beginning and have no preconceived notion of what this is going to look like,” with Rivers adding, “The first and most important thing is to understand where the old project went wrong and have the candid discussion to determine: Is this really a needed project? We have a sense the answer will be yes.”

That is exactly what was missed during the 15 years of efforts to ram light rail on a citizenry that clearly and repeatedly said they did not want it. An “honest and candid” conversation never took place as from the beginning, it was all about forcing light rail on us. Hence, the oft repeated “no light rail, no bridge” coming from Oregon and even Washington officials who drop to their knees every time Oregon says “Boo.”

Enter Paul Montague, no doubt still smarting from being fired (according to sources) as head of special interest group Identity Clark County for his inability to “deliver the goods,” forcing light rail on us and increasing profits to some of their members, all at taxpayer expense, mind you.

Mindful of his abject failure, Montague pens a letter to the editor, Rivers not one to take bridge lead, blasting this effort for a real discussion between the states and surmising, “Any credible effort to put together a new replacement for the Interstate 5 bridge should be headed up by someone with the character and integrity to not pull the rug out from under the efforts of everyone involved in creating such a new crossing.”

That Montague even has the audacity to write the words “character and integrity” is an affront to every citizen of Clark County after his underhanded efforts to force light rail off on us, even including misrepresenting a vote denying funding for light rail, claiming it is not representative of the county since voter turnout was relatively low.

I guess it never dawns on him that his line of reasoning would have to apply to the other votes in that same election, including two new Vancouver City Council members and reelection of the Mayor?

Paul Montague is hardly one to discuss “character and integrity.”

On the other hand, Sen. Rivers and Rep. Pike are as they have shown their willingness to listen to and work on behalf of the people of their district, not dictate to them what they will accept “like it or not.”

The formation of this “Bistate Bridge Crossing Coalition” is what should have been done first, long ago, instead of Portland dictating to Clark County Washington what will be.

It is obvious that the real solution is an additional bridge or more before we even discuss replacing the current I-5 spans, if for no other reason than to offer a relief path for traffic.

Light rail must be left out of the discussion, unless Clark County voters give indication they are willing to accept it.

The Location of where additional bridges should be located must be discussed and agreed upon without the negativity displayed by John Laird above.

The benefits from the project must be for all of the citizens, not just profit for a group of special interest businesses and their lackeys in office.

I don’t know if it can actually be done, since we see spiteful opposition coming from proponents like Mayor Tim ‘the Liar’ Leavitt, the Lazy C and Jim ‘Da Taxman’ Moeller (D 49), but this is how a bistate project should be approached.

Montague and others opposing this effort are wrong. Dead wrong!

And I can’t think of two more people with not only “character and integrity,” but honesty and a willingness to actually fulfill their campaign promises of representation over dictating than Ann Rivers and Liz Pike.

Contrary to what disgruntled CRC proponents like Paul Montague think, representing the people over special interests is not “pulling the rug out from under” anybody.

They have not burned any bridges and are in fact, striving to build new bridges, not just across the river but in relations between the two states. But, relations based on mutual respect, not bullying.

14 Comments to “Burning Bridges or Building Bridges?”

  1. Right on the money.


  2. Let’s see … a bridge crossing near Camas would not involve Vancouver at all… So Mayor Leavitt doesn’t even need to be involved… There seem to be several potential routes that would not be disruptive to either side of the river. Approaches and connectors would need to be carefully planned to avoid creating more bottlenecks.

    Another possible route might split off from I-5 near 78th St, skirt Vancouver Lake and cross just west of the Willamette River junction with the Columbia. On the Oregon side, it would cross Sauvie Island and then link up to US 30 — that could be upgraded to a full freeway from the bridge approach to its connection with I-405. This would tend to open up the west side of Portland — and would possibly allow a future link crossing over the ridge between US 30 and US 26, perhaps in the vicinity of Cornelius Pass.

    Personally having lived in the SF Bay Area most of my life prior to moving to Clark County in 2012, I’ve seen plenty of wrong-headed blockage of proposed freeway routes and delays to bridge building that simply create more congestion. The myth is that you “can’t build your way out of congestion” but this is provably incorrect, as Houston, Texas has added a multitude of freeways (and added lanes) and has mostly managed to keep ahead of congestion. (Houston also has no zoning rules!!!) Another myth is “freeways create traffic” — I can point to I-70 from it’s starting point in Utah all the way past the Colorado border … and though that freeway has been there for more than 20 years, there’s hardly any development. Indeed, it holds the record for the longest stretch of freeway with “no services” (some 230 miles).

    The myths are self-fulfilling prophesies, as looking at the SF Bay Area, various “anti-freeway” and “environmental” groups regularly delayed major improvements for decades with lawsuits, etc. — so naturally new building was “immediately” congested … simply because they were built a decade later than they should have been.

    The population growth in both Clark County and Portland (metro area) is such that reasonable planning can improve roads sufficiently to avoid serious congestion. I note that the I-5 (and to a lesser extent I-205) corridors are currently congested, but I also observe some of the more poorly planned freeway entrances and exits I’ve ever seen. Portland could clearly improve some surface streets (particularly along the northern industrial corridor) that might help some of the congestion. (Something along the lines of Clark County’s State Route 500 between I-5 and I-205 … or even the Padden parkway as it runs from NE 78th St. to NE Ward Rd.)

    I know that locals feel that traffic is “really bad” … but honestly, it’s much worse elsewhere — and while I would not want to regularly commute across the river (with the existing highways) a third and/or fourth crossing would open up the congestion to a remarkable extent.

  3. Lew…spot on! Isn’t this what we’ve been arguing from the get go with these proponent clowns???

    Regarding a bridge on the west side…as long as it is in the vicinity of the railroad bridge just west of I-5, it might be workable as long as the crossing meets up with West Marine Drive…possibly utilizing the now abandoned “Port” on the west side of Hayden Island which was suggested by Sam Adams and others. To include a bridge which crosses over to Sauvie Island, it would negatively impact the wildlife habitat of Sauvie Island…bringing to attention groups in opposition such as Audubon Society and Sierra Club. There would also be the issue of increased traffic on a rural island which Oregon would have to address, most likely receiving extreme opposition by the locals.

    In recent weeks, I’ve been studying the traffic from I-205 to 192nd Avenue and Camas as we were headed eastbound on Hwy 14. Anybody who has been stuck in the gridlock which 162nd seems to be the culprit…knows the east side bridge would be an improvement. Not sure what it would do for folks on 181st and Airport Way in Portland…or I-84 for that matter. Wouldn’t we just be shifting the gridlock from one side of the river to the other??? There’s no room for improvement on I-84 or Airport Way.

    West side bypass crossing next to the railroad bridge makes the most sense.

  4. …and that was the Port which was suggested by Sam Adams and others, not a west-side bridge.

  5. That is what a candid and honest discussion would decide. We don’t need any more bullying from Portland and the downtown mafia wishing to force light rail on us against our wishes so they can fatten their bank accounts on our backs.

    I like the idea of a bypass to the west, primarily to the ports and some local access crossings to the east. But I’m not a traffic engineer an would need to study proposals to see if they hinder or enhance congestion.

    I’m waiting to see what plan Figgs comes up with for Madore for an east crossing. I do believe they are looking at congestion from both sides.

  6. How much for a two lane bridge west of the RR bridge, with a lift of some kind?

  7. Aj, would it even need a lift if the height requirements were met?

  8. With the billions of dollars in tax breaks that Nike and Boeing have received from Oregon and Washington, perhaps it’s time these huge corporations gave back by totally funding the design and structure of a new bridge between the two states. Nike can use their Swoosh as arches, and Boeing can use their logo on the bridge entry signs. This would be great advertising for both companies, and another tax write-off for them! If any other big corporations that have taken advantage of huge tax breaks in both states want to step up and be a part of the project, their logos can be incorporated in the design.

  9. Would be a lot more persuasive without the unnecessary pejorative comment about the Columbian (which does and has endorsed Liz Pike) and John Laird, who is very conservative and just happens to disagree with some of your arguments. Liz Pike is being a leader asking for a tabla raza to think about new bridges over the Columbia River. We should support her efforts on this. And hopefully the sky will not fall if thoughtful folks agree that at least some kind of infrastructure should be part of any bridge that would at least allow in the future for some kind of public transportation besides buses. The comments in the blog about light rail of course ignore the huge elephant that has always been in the room and that a few brave folks are willing to admit to, i.e., it would make it so much easier for “those” people to gain access to our fair county. But this is a truly dead issue as the majority has spoken and I accept their shortsighted verdict (for now at least!). Let’s make sure that whatever bridge is built it is high enough to avoid any mitigation payments and high enough for the tallest ships to make it underneath…do it right the first time. I always thought it was the most conservative view that those who use something should be the ones to pay for it. Again the public has spoken clearly, at least the northern part of the county, that tolls are not acceptable at this point. Fair enough. So where is the financing to come from for any bridge across the river whether near Camas or west of the current bridge? No one likes taxes but the bridge won’t be free. I hope that calm heads discuss this rationally and come up with some solution to our long term transportation problem in this area. I thought John Ley had some perspicacious comments on the this issue; glad he is running for office.

  10. Anybody claiming John Laird is “very conservative” loses me.

    Odd how you can say “Would be a lot more persuasive without the unnecessary pejorative comment about the Columbian” and I don’t recall you ever confronting the “very conservative” John Laird over “Hounds of Whinerville,” “Ankle Biters,” “Cockroaches,” “Banana (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything)” and “Political Piranhas” or Brancaccio’s ongoing “M&M Boys.”

    Light rail has been the 800 pound gorilla all along and is what killed the project. I’m sure you recall the numerous “no light rail, no bridge” claims? And, you might ask just why is it that the Lazy C has never covered the Oregon Supreme Court ruling the exposed the project being only about light rail, that being the enticement to force Clark County into accepting against the voters wishes?

    And why did John Laird never support those voters over the issue?

    I don’t base my support or opposition of any candidate because of who might endorse them. That has always been irrelevant to me.

    Incidentally, the last vote on funding light rail operations and maintenance was held only inside that gerrymandered sub-district and it was still defeated. It is not only North County opposed to it.

    As far as funding, don’t you think there should be some accountability from WSDOT over the troubles with the 520 bridge, Bertha or the wasted money on CRC? A lot could be done with what wasted and still needs to be paid for to correct mistakes.

    And I see no one being held accountable.

    Constantly raising taxes and piling on more fees and tolls without accountability is not the answer.

    Let’s see what Figg comes up with for the East County Bridge. Last I heard, they are designing at their expense, not ours.

  11. Saying John Laird is ‘very conservative’ is like saying Joseph Stalin was a diehard capitalist. Regarding light rail, Laird, like Brancaccio, did as he was told and carried the water for Scott Campbell on that issue. I have no idea what his real thoughts on the matter were.

  12. John Laird, in my opinion…was one of the best “opinionated” writers of all times in the PNW, Lew. He was able to generate discussion which is what he was paid to do. I rarely agreed with his writes, but he knew exactly what he was saying and why he said what he said. Yeah, he got my dander up many a time…especially with his little nicknames, bashing in anybody who would disagree with his editorial…but he did it to spark controversy. Every time someone posted a comment on his editorials, that was “ka CHING” for the C! Granted, he leaned hard to the left in his writes…but do we really know what his personal thoughts were??? I believe he shined best in his Out and About writes about the scenic Clark County routes he’d take, but there was no controversy, there. The C could have used more of his promotion of the beauty of Clark County rather than the promotion of anger, frustration, confusion and mayhem.

    He has all the earmarks of an intelligent, well-versed writer.

    Oh…and Lew…what you stated about WSDOT funding (as well as any funding from any other entity which obviously went to waste, thanks mostly in part to Oregon’s TriMet folly which seems to be an increasing trend on anything Oregon these days), I am in total agreement…especially in regards to the issues of overpayment to several companies – including David Evans & Associates. It is my opinion that they all should be forced to pay back to the people unless they can show just cause for the overpayments.

  13. Click to access Columbia_River_Crossing_Project.pdf

    Sooo…the Washington State Auditor’s Office has found obvious discrepancies including overpayments to certain entities involved.

    What are they going to do about it??? Will they turn it over to the State Attorney General’s Office??? Is the state auditor or even the state attorney general doing what he’s supposed to do??? Maybe a little request for information and a little push by the people regarding this issue is in order, Lew.

  14. Paul Montague continues to ‘BURN BRIDGES’ doesn’t he?! Obviously from all the posts above, describing a CRC with a poor plan, mismanagement, a Vancouver not ready for light rail, still with no clear vision for a bridge or where it should be. Illustrates clearly that strong leadership would have identified these flaws. Good leaders would not have worked to move the CRC forward until these issues were resolved and a collaborative consensus took place. Which takes process over a period of time. I have a hard time believing that Ms. Rivers was responsible for all of the above?

    Mr. Montague appears to be passive-aggressive with his attack on Ms. Rivers and has personalized her stance in the past that may have been perceived as thwarting Mr. Montague’s efforts personally, in lieu of viewing her opposition, perhaps to the CRC and plan. Mr. Montague, please stop writing and support your former employer and replacement, John McKibbin with working to heal old wounds. Really, isn’t the goal to build a bridge to increase viability in your business circle? I would think that you would get it and stop adding to the polarization.

    Last word of advise for you Mr. Montague, you may wish to consider getting a different photographer, your photos give you the appearance of a lecher. I don’t think this is what you wish to convey.

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