While education, the budget and social issues have captured statewide interest in this year’s legislative sessions, lawmakers are also dealing with a more regional but no less contentious issue: the Columbia River Crossing.
The bridge project is aimed at alleviating highway travel across the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland, Ore., as well as maritime travel along the river. But arguments between Democrats and Republicans from the local, state and even federal levels on how best to build the crossing have caused the project to languish for a decade.
Over the weekend, The Seattle Times ran dueling editorials on whether the state should move ahead and approve funding for the current crossing proposal to match Oregon’s financial commitment.
In favor of approving the funding for the crossing proposal is U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, whose column can be read here. Editorializing against the project was the 14th District’s own Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, whose column can be read here.
At the heart of the debate is whether the crossing should accommodate light rail and whether that aspect of the project has distracted from greater priorities in replacing the World War I-era drawbridge.
“Instead of taking into consideration the needs of upriver businesses first, officials for Oregon’s and Washington’s transportation departments have seemed focused on one thing: bringing light rail into Washington’s Clark County,” King writes. “The problem: light rail is too expensive, won’t improve congestion or safety and isn’t necessary.”
King takes issue with impact the height of the bridge — which is lower than it might have been to accommodate light rail — would have on businesses that ship products down the Columbia River. But Murray says such concerns have already been addressed and that a redesign would take another 10 years to approve.
“More than 99 percent of businesses that ship goods along the Columbia River would not be impacted by the CRC’s height, and mitigation agreements have been reached with two of the three major manufacturers that would be impacted by the bridge design,” Murray writes. “For workers and businesses who need an efficient highway and transit system, the CRC is a solution to years of jobs-and-profit-killing congestion.”