Ley urges RTC Board to vote “No” on IBR until revised design and costs are known

July 6, 2022by John Ley0

The following remarks were delivered in person to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) Board at their July 5 meeting.

Later in this meeting, you will receive an update on the Interstate Bridge. They will de-emphasize the fact that the Coast Guard has rejected the IBR’s request for a bridge offering 116 feet of clearance. The Coast Guard is demanding 178 feet minimum, and would prefer unlimited vertical navigation clearance.

We therefore do not know what the bridge design is. Will it contain a lift span, like the current two bridges? Or will they try and design the IBR with a bascule bridge offering unlimited clearance?

How much higher above the water will a revised bridge be where it connects with land in Vancouver? Is it even possible for there to be a waterfront transit station if the bridge is 178 feet above the waterline? The river’s navigation channel is along the north side of the river, right next to the Vancouver waterfront.

Will there be light rail? Is it even possible for light rail on a bridge offering 178 feet of clearance? Clark County’s C-TRAN Bus Rapid Transit would be a much better choice. It is cheaper on a per passenger basis and you can avoid $1.3 billion in capital costs. C-TRAN BRT can offer seating to 60% of their passengers, whereas MAX light rail can only seat 40% of passengers, leaving the majority standing. By the way, the MAX Yellow Line only travels 14 MPH, whereas C-TRAN express buses can travel nearly DOUBLE that speed.

There is another HUGE problem. The TriMet Board recently took the position that NEW TAXES on BOTH sides of the Columbia River are needed to fund the Operations and Maintenance of the light rail extension. Are each of you willing to support new taxes on Washington residents to pay for Portland’s light rail?

Our C-TRAN BRT system is able to operate from current tax revenues and there is no hint that C-TRAN is requesting new taxes as they prepare for their 3rd BRT line.

The TriMet Board is also demanding there be a modification to Portland’s Steel Bridge in the IBR light rail proposal; plus a massive expansion of their Gresham maintenance facility at Ruby Junction. Do you believe Clark County residents should be funding any of this? TriMet apparently does.

There is no “pause” button being offered to you today. The reality is that it will likely take 6 months or more for the IBR team to come back with a revised design to meet the Coast Guard’s requirements.

With no design and more importantly, NO COST ESTIMATES, how on earth can you vote “YES” to allow this “no details” plan to move forward? Please vote NO and protect SW Washington taxpayers until we get design and cost details!

Finally, what is the status of the “absolute and irrevocable” contract C-TRAN signed giving TriMet eminent domain authority? It’s the one with the $5 million penalty clause.

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