Opinion editorial by Rep. Liz Pike: Leaders should come together, not be silenced, to seek cross-river solutions
The Columbian, Vancouver
Mayor Tim Leavitt and some other local elected officials have a lengthy, well documented history of supporting a failed and costly light rail project between Clark County and Portland, known as the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). For years, these folks supported bringing Portland's light rail to our community against the objections of our own citizens.
Entering into any agreement between Clark County's taxpayers and an agency with Tri-Met's financial woes ought to be troubling to every elected official in Southwest Washington. According to Tri-Met's 2015 Audited Financial Report, unfunded liabilities are 459 percent greater than the costs of current payroll. It is estimated Tri-Met's unfunded pension liability exceeds $1 billion. It is no surprise our local citizens have completely lost faith with the CRC's promoters.
Beyond these details, there is no reason to re-litigate why this $3.5 billion – $5 billion light rail project, disguised as a bridge, had to be stopped in its tracks. It's time to put all this behind us and move forward with affordable transportation solutions.
Fast forward to today, House Bill 2414 is a perfectly-structured bill to put an equal number of Democrats and Republicans at the same table, representing both chambers from two states. The legislative members of this Bi-State Bridge Project Work Group would be appointed by caucus leaders to ensure that all constituencies are equally represented in an open and transparent process. The group is tasked with identifying affordable solutions to meet current and future needs of the region and prioritize the sequencing of those projects.
For the second time in two years, HB 2414 sailed through the House Transportation Committee with unanimous bipartisan support — evidence this bill is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there are a few legislators who still cannot get past the grieving process of CRC's death long enough to work for the common good. It's either their way or no way. So they operate behind the scenes to kill a perfectly good bill in order to advance their own political agenda. The result of that agenda condemns our hard-working commuters to worsening congestion, longer commute times, years of enduring a failing I-5 corridor, increased pollution, higher costs for employers, fewer jobs and decreased quality of life.
It is shameful these critics tear apart those who are actively working to find affordable cross-river bridge solutions, but offer no solutions of their own, other than the dead-and-buried CRC plan. Our citizens want forward-thinking leaders to work together and move beyond the CRC with new solutions. That was the idea behind HB 2414.
The I-5 corridor belongs to the entire region, not just the legislative district or the city where it is located. Washington is the most trade dependent state in America, giving this corridor both regional and national significance.
Clark County citizens have every right to have their voices represented by their elected officials in all discussions regarding new cross-river solutions. It is wrong to tell their state legislators to be silent and step aside just because they disagree with the mayor, The Columbian, and those on record who wish to force Portland's light rail upon our citizens.
Voters in the 18th Legislative District have twice elected me to be their voice in Olympia. They support me because I demonstrate the courage to stand up for my constituents. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I will not abdicate my responsibility to identify and defend common sense and affordable solutions to improve freight mobility and relieve traffic congestion in this important corridor that serves our entire region, state and West coast. I invite people to join me, just as I did in HB 2414, because the problems will not go away on their own.
As Winston Churchill said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
When it comes to my constituents, they deserve strong leadership that does not yield to intimidation. I will always stand with them and will never give in.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, represents the 18th Legislative District and serves on the House Transportation Committee.