Rep. Brandon Vick says he and others ‘have some very serious concerns about where we are’
Another member of the Bi-state Legislative Committee that advises Interstate Bridge Replacement Program (IBR) Administrator Greg Johnson on the proposed replacement of the I-5 Bridge has expressed stern objections to the project.
In recent months, Sen. Lynda Wilson (17th District) has often been the loudest voice among the 16 members of the committee of legislators, expressing concerns over the IBR team’s Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). Sen. Paul Harris (49th District) told Clark County Today he also still has questions. Last week, Rep. Brandon Vick (18th District) added his opposition during the regularly scheduled meeting of the eight lawmakers from Washington and eight from Oregon.
“To get to this point, it’s been a lot of work,’’ Vick said. “I have also been asked to speak on behalf of some of my colleagues, and maybe they’ll speak as well, about the fact that we’re here and we’re not walking away. But, we also have some very serious concerns about where we are.
“I might have shown my hand a little bit earlier, but we talked about partners, and it’s very obvious that this locally preferred alternative is written by the partners, because as a body, we didn’t take any of these votes,’’ Vick said. “I hesitate to use that word, because as we noted, there’s no skin in the game, at least not financial skin.’’
Vick went on to say that “we have good neighbors,’’ referring to the IBR team and its partners participating in the planning of the bridge replacement. “We should be working with them. But, this is not our LPA and we’re the ones spending the money representing the constituents and we’re going to have to answer for this at the end of the day.’’
Vick was first elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2012. In addition to serving in the legislature, Vick has also worked in Clark County in the private sector.
“Having spent my life in the business world, it just kind of seems like we’re doing things backwards,’’ Vick said. “We’re going to have to make a vote as to how much to spend and when to spend it. And, if we move forward with this exact plan, I’m not confident I can go back to my constituents and tell them why we’re pursuing X,Y and Z. I don’t know why we’re pursuing light rail (over C-TRAN’s Bus Rapid Transit). I don’t know why we’re pursuing one auxiliary lane. We’re taking the vote and then we’re going to study it. And then we’re going to have to go back and say, ‘well, looks like we were right, it looks like we were wrong.’
“If this were a perfect world, I would say we’d hire a couple of design-build firms, give them our list of requirements and say, ‘give us the science-based answers to these problems,’’ Vick said. “Give us a good, better, best and we’ll pick the one that fits best for our constituents in our budget, but we’re not there. We’re putting together a political list of ideas and we’re going to try and weave a bridge around them rather than give us the best options and let us choose. That’s just troubling to me for a whole host of reasons.’’
Vick went on to explain that one of the issues that is most troubling to him is variable rate tolling, which he believes reveals the effort by some to get commuters out of their cars.
“A few specific things that are very troubling is variable rate tolling,’’ Vick said. “I understand it exists. I understand it’s used in other places. While it’s not actually criminal, I think it’s criminal. The point of variable rate tolling is to get people off of the bridge, because it’s too expensive for them to use it. And that’s how they control traffic. That’s not the right thing to do with a public asset, especially one as vital as I-5.’’
Vick expressed the need for more study on Bus On Shoulder and Bus Rapid Transit options, “because if those work, why not use the most cost-effective solution? … I do feel that a broader look is going to be more beneficial to our constituents than a targeted look.’’
Administrator Johnson has spent the past month getting buy-in from the “partners’’ to the I-5 Bridge replacement project and the LPA, which calls for just three through lanes in each direction and proposes a bridge height of 116 feet, substantially lower than the 178 feet in height deemed necessary by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Vancouver City Council unanimously approved a resolution offering its support and a majority of the board members of C-TRAN and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council also voted in support of the LPA.
Vick expressed concern that the project will get too far down its path to final approval that there won’t be an opportunity to make changes.
“Where’s our opportunity to make changes?’’ Vick asked. “Where’s our opportunity to add that second auxiliary lane? Where’s our opportunity to roll back on light rail? Where’s our opportunity to make a difference, if all of a sudden the stars have aligned, and so those are my concerns. I believe they represent the concerns of others. Again, the process should keep moving forward. But, I really hope that when it comes time to vote, to appropriate money, to do some of these things, that the folks making those decisions are the ones who are heard, maybe a little louder.’’
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