Ken Vance, Editor
VANCOUVER — It was the ultimate irony, but not one that I enjoyed.
As I was driving home from Rep. Liz Pike’s Transportation Solutions Town Hall meeting Saturday at Washington State University Vancouver, I was frustrated when I found myself in congestion on I-205 near SR-500. The slowing of traffic was temporary, nothing close to what many Clark County drivers experience on a regular basis, but it only added to the frustration I was feeling throughout this day.
I listened intently throughout the two-and-one-half-hour meeting this morning. It was similar to the Town Hall Pike and Rep. Vicki Kraft held in February at Clark College’s east campus. Speakers representing five separate traffic congestion solutions walked those of us in attendance through their ideas. Pike once again offered some valuable thoughts and information about the issues we are currently facing and traffic architect Kevin Peterson, a Washington resident with 35 years experience solving traffic issues all over the world, offered a historical perspective on this region’s problems.
It’s a subject I’m passionate about. But, as I listened intently, I realized that not enough of you are passionate enough about this issue. You see, more than 150 citizens and elected officials filled the conference room at February’s meeting and less than 40 showed up for Saturday’s town hall. Other than Pike, the only elected official I saw in attendance was Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring.
I’ve become informed enough on the proposals to have formed my own opinions about how I believe we need to proceed. I will share more of that with as we move forward. We will also provide a full package of content from Saturday’s meeting in the next few days, so check back to ClarkCountyToday.com for that.
The frustration I felt Saturday was generated from the realization that we are not close to realizing solutions to our traffic congestion issues. And, if we would have had passionate citizens and elected officials 20 or 30 years ago, the problem could already be solved.
Pike recalled how as a young woman she participated in an organized run across the I-205 bridge before it opened. I was just out of high school when it opened in December 1982. Camas resident John Ley pointed out Saturday that as soon as the I-205 bridge opened, we should have moved on to the next solution. Truer words were never spoken. Could you imagine if we already had a third crossing right now? How much more pleasant would your crossings of the Columbia River be if that was the case?
The reason we aren’t experiencing that euphoria right now, and instead I sat in congestion on I-205 on a Saturday afternoon, is that we didn’t have citizens and elected officials back then who had the passion and vision to address the issues we faced then and still face today. Someone at Saturday’s town hall asked rhetorically, where would we be right now if those responsible for the construction of the I-205 corridor had the same lack of passion and vision as we, collectively, have today?
I am convinced we need multiple solutions to our transportation problems. Yes, the I-5 bridge needs to be replaced at some point. But, that will have an extremely minimal impact on the traffic congestion or need to improve freight mobility. We also need at least one, preferably two additional crossings.
This column isn’t about which solution is the best. It’s not even about which solution should be addressed first, or second. We’re not close to realizing any of those solutions. I wonder if any will take place in my lifetime. I don’t think I’m being overly pessimistic. I think it’s frighteningly realistic to think none of it will take place in my lifetime, unless the citizens elect leaders with vision and then passionately push them to solve these problems.
And, be prepared to get your wallets and purses out. It doesn’t matter which solution you prefer, someone has to pay for it one way or another. I don’t care it it’s taxes or tolls, we have to pay the freight. There’s no getting around it. Just accept it.
So, in the next few days, I will share all the details with you about the issues and solutions that were discussed at Saturday’s town hall. ClarkCountyToday.com’s Mike Schultz will present video and photo content. At some point, I will share more of my own personal thoughts on the proposals.
Please take the time to educate yourself on the proposals and then let your elected officials know what you want them to do. And, if they don’t get something done soon, vote them out of office the first chance you get