Setting the records straight on the CRC

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The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is the construction of a new, 10-lane interstate bridge (with shoulders), five (5) new interchanges, and about one mile of light rail transit into downtown Vancouver.

In December of 2011, the Federal Government issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on the CRC project. This nod of approval follows a lengthy and expensive effort to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The achievement of the ROD was necessarily challenging. The Feds, justifiably, demand an exhaustive and comprehensive evaluation of these types of multi-model mega projects. For nearly two decades, this project has been conceptualized, alternatives studied and re-studied, layouts designed and re-designed, and expert independent reviews conducted and re-conducted.

Of paramount importance, during the NEPA process hundreds of meetings were conducted with all stakeholders, including: our neighbors; community advocates and critics; business owners and job-creators; pedestrian, bicycle and transit advocates; Mayors and County Commissioners and City Councilors; and State and Federal Representatives. Thousands of hours were expended by our fellow citizens to learn, critique, review and provide valuable input to the project. For that, we have a better project, and one that is now eligible to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal support.

The CRC project is necessary. The CRC project, as approved by the process detailed above, is necessary. No project of this nature is perfect, but is a balance of many issues. The facts, the financing and the process prove that the CRC is the right project, at the right cost, and the right time.

In light of all the effort, all the input and critique, there are some who don’t agree. That is understandable and respected. However, there are not multiple versions of the facts. While we are all entitled to our opinion, we are NOT entitled to our own facts. Some in our community continue a campaign of misleading the public about the facts, in order to justify their opinions as legitimate.

I recently was alerted to an opinion that was published in The Reflector in which the author and candidate for public office utilized his own facts to justify his opinion as legitimate. Such a manipulation is unjust and a disservice to our community. We deserve and should demand better than that. I write this letter to shine light on the facts of the CRC project and see that the record is straight.

The following is a point-by-point factual rebuttal of comments made by Jon Haugen in his December 28, 2011 opinion piece:

*As noted above, the CRC project includes a new river crossing of 20 lanes, shoulders and bike/pedestrian facilities; five (5) new interchanges; and extension of about one mile of light rail transit (and associated road reconstruction/park and ride facilities) in downtown Vancouver.

*Washington State law requires that tolls be collected on a road and be used for that road. It would be illegal to toll I-05 and use the money for the CRC project.

*The CRC is envisioned to be financed by 1/3 from the Federal government, 1/3 from the States of Oregon and Washington, and 1/3 from us locally. Remember that 70% of the daily crossings of the current bridge are by us local folks. So, we’re paying directly for 1/3 of the cost, but use is more than 2/3 of the time.

*The bridge in Minnesota described by Mr. Haugen costs the same as the CRC bridge, when accounting for greater length and width. But, comparison of the CRC to another project at some other location in our country, with entirely unique circumstances, is irrelevant. To suggest that because there is a different project in a different location and there is another solution to the problems we have here is simply unjustified.

*The current bridge crossing is dangerous. Period. The bridge has poor sight distance, has poor connections to on-ramps and off-ramps, and has no shoulders and narrow lanes. Contaminated stormwater runs directly into the Columbia River and the pedestrian/bicycle path is unsafe and inadequate.

*The CRC has been driven by extensive citizen input over many years, thorough planning and scientific/engineering analysis, and the collaboration of local, state and federal agencies and representatives of the people.

Suggesting that “we simply do not have the luxury of needlessly spending” on the antiquated I-5 corridor is terribly short-sighted and selfish. The current bridge crossing and the interchanges are inadequate for today’s traffic, much less the increased demand as we continue to grow. We know that the I-5 corridor is the economic artery for our region and the west coast of the United States.

We cannot afford to neglect the I-5 corridor for another 20 years.

We cannot afford upwards of 15 hours of traffic congestion each and every day, if the CRC is not constructed.

We cannot afford to lose the 20,000 jobs this construction project will create, when we are facing an unemployment rate in Clark County of over 10 percent.

We cannot afford to lose jobs as companies stop expanding; as companies leave our region; and as companies refrain from locating here.

We cannot afford to pass up an available $850 million from the Federal Transit Administration to build light rail into Vancouver, connecting into 55 miles of transit system throughout our region.

We cannot afford to build this project by ourselves, and need both State and Federal financial support.

We cannot afford to idle as the world passes us by; our local economy will die.

The CRC project is coming, fortunately. Contact your elected officials and let them know that you want our community prepared for a bright and prosperous future--get the CRC project built already.

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