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UPDATED: I-5 Bridge anti-tolling resolution dead ends at County Council

The resolution would have urged the Federal government to fund the bridge project enough to avoid the need for tolls

CLARK COUNTY — UPDATE 10/30/18: The demise of this resolution became a topic of discussion during Tuesday’s County Council meeting when Camas resident John Ley, a vocal opponent of tolling along the I-5 corridor, blasted the councilors for failing to move ahead. While Ley praised Chair Marc Boldt for bringing the resolution forward, he wondered why the other councilors, aside from Jeanne Stewart, declined to support it. 

“Why on earth would any of us support tolling, especially at this point in time?” Ley asked the council during public comments. “Oregon’s trying to pick our pockets for their transportation proposal, and their proposal is simply to create a slush fund. There are zero transportation projects that require any money from their tolling proposal.”

“I believe a motion to reconsider is in order,” added Ley. “I would strongly encourage you to speak with a united voice, especially at this early time, that we oppose tolls.”

Shortly after Ley’s comments, councilor Eileen Quiring responded, saying she felt this article unfairly represented her position on the proposed resolution, which urged the Federal government to fully fund a new I-5 bridge, without the need for local tolling.

“While I tried to make some amendments, those amendments were not accepted,” said Quiring. “Once we had the discussion, Chair Boldt said we don’t have enough votes, at which time I said ‘I cannot, in good conscience, oppose this particular resolution because I am against tolls.'”

Quiring says she was surprised when Boldt decided that his proposed resolution didn’t have support to move forward. While she had expressed some concerns about it, she was clear that she would support it if Boldt decided to move ahead.

“I said that I felt this resolution was premature because the governor of Oregon has stated that she will not do anything to replace the I-5 bridge without having Light Rail on it,” Quiring said on Tuesday, “and I am against Light Rail as well.”

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

A proposed resolution by the Clark County Council, urging the Federal government to fully fund a new Interstate Bridge on I-5, withered on the vine this week. Current County Chair Marc Boldt introduced the resolution, in an effort to express the council’s opposition to tolls as a method to pay for a new bridge.

“It’s just a message to Congress saying it’s their road, and they should fund it,” said Boldt during a recent council time meeting during which the resolution was discussed. He found support in Councilor Jeanne Stewart, a strong opponent of tolls.

“I see merit in not addressing a million other things,” said Stewart, “but simply addressing where the underlying responsibility should be.”

The Interstate Bridge on I-5. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Interstate Bridge on I-5. Photo by Mike Schultz

Councilor John Blom, however, said the resolution failed to recognize that the Federal government has already made it clear that funding for highway projects will be tighter going forward, even if a proposed 25-cent gas tax increase ends up being adopted.

“There’s already half as much money as there was 20 years ago,” said Blom. “And the administration, I feel like, is a little bit tone deaf with what they have requested in terms of funding for these kinds of projects is going to be through public/private partnership.

“It’s a great idea,” Blom added, “I would love to have a bridge without a toll, but I just don’t feel like it’s a realistic ask. It makes us look like we’re asking for a free pony.”

Eileen Quiring, who is running to replace Boldt as council chair, said she likes the idea of the resolution, but would prefer to wait until after the election to see who ends up being governor in Oregon.

“I think it’s premature in that we heard from (Oregon) Governor (Kate) Brown, that if she’s re-elected, she’s kind of drawn a line in the sand that there will be light rail,” said Quiring. “And I don’t want to keep promoting this if that’s what’s going to happen to the bridge.”

Last week, the council decided to take a week to think about the resolution, and then return at this week’s council time meeting to determine if they wanted to move forward. Stewart and Boldt remained the only councilors fully supporting the resolution.

“I’m paying to use the roadways,” argued Stewart, “and if we’re diverting people to light rail and other methods, they need to pay more of their fair share of the cost of that right. So … I as a driver am getting screwed over, paying ever-increasing amounts, having ever less capacity, while I continue to pay for it. And these are costs that need to be more fairly shared.”

Blom made the argument that, looking at other west coast Interstate highway projects, like I-90 across the Snoqualmie Pass, and the $1.9 billion I-405 project in California, it’s obvious the Federal government has already made it clear they won’t be picking up the full tab for projects on highways they own.

“So the idea that we’re going to ask the Federal government to step up and pay more — if that’s really what the ask is going to be — then I’m convinced they’re going to come back and say ‘OK, that’s fine, but you’re going to pay more, and that’s going to be in the form of gas tax,'” said Blom. “Well we already have one of the highest gas taxes in the country. The administration proposed a 25-cent gas tax increase already this year.”

Quiring also introduced a proposed amendment to the resolution to add a statement against light rail, in addition to tolls.

“I think we need to make it clear to the Federal government that we don’t want it,” said Quiring. “Because that is part of the whole Federal funding package as well.”

Councilor Julie Olson, also facing a re-election bid, said she agreed with the premise that the Federal government has a responsibility to maintain the Interstate highway system, but said she felt this resolution would do little to affect the conversation at this point.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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