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Willamette Week: the_$25_billion_bribe

 

Legal Ruling: Judge States CRC is really a Light Rail Project!

 

Metro found -- and petitioners do not dispute -- that the political necessity  

9 of new highway bridges over the Columbia was demonstrated early on, and it was

10 entirely beyond the control of Metro. Washington State approval is necessary because

11 the project extends into Vancouver, but the voters of Clark County, Washington, rejected

12 at the ballot box a light-rail-only bridge across the Columbia. As Metro explained, "[i]t

13 was clear from this action that a stand-alone light rail project was not politically

14 acceptable to the voters of Clark County."5 Afterward, a bistate group called the I-5

 

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1 Transportation and Trade Partnership was formed to examine the question. In its

2 published conclusions, the Partnership explained that the area transportation problems

3 required a comprehensive solution. As Metro later summarized the Partnership's

4 conclusions, Oregon and Washington had different interests: Although "Oregon interests

5 required emphasis on a multi-modal solution * * * because of the difficulty of

6 accommodating [traffic] demand through a highway-only expansion of I-5," Clark

7 County interests "needed a highway element because the land use patterns of Clark

8 County require[] a system with greater dependence on auto access."

9 For those reasons, it was politically impossible for the light rail project to

10 proceed without also building new interstate bridges across the Columbia River:

11 "The Council finds that the Project reflects negotiation and compromise

12 among governmental bodies and that for all practical purposes, the light rail

13 component could not have gone forward without the highway component

14 and the highway component could not have gone forward without the light

15 rail component."

16 Or as Metro later summarized it: "There is no[] light rail without the freeway bridge[s]

17 being replaced." Thus, Metro found, "the highway improvements are necessitated by the

 

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1 light rail improvements."

2 Although political realities may have made the new bridges necessary, the

3 bridges themselves made additional highway improvements necessary, including

4 alterations to the North Marine Drive interchanges specifically mentioned by petitioners.6

5 The light rail construction itself also made necessary other changes to North Marine

6 Drive.7 Petitioners do not attempt to refute those findings by Metro.

 

Selected Footnotes:

 

5 More specifically, Metro explained in its findings of fact that the original

project proposal would have crossed the Columbia River

"via a proposed new bridge for light rail transit purposes only west of the

existing I-5/Interstate Bridge. TriMet successfully obtained voter support

of General Obligation Bonds for one-third of the local match in November

1994 by a wide margin. That ballot measure was predicated on a state

legislative contribution of another one-third and a Washington State/Clark

County contribution of the final one-third. In early 1995 the voters of Clark

Co. turned down a ballot measure for their local match contribution[.] It

was clear from this action that a stand-alone light rail project was not

politically acceptable to the voters of Clark County."

(Emphasis added.)

 

6 The findings of fact by Metro state:

"The Council further finds that construction of these new bridge

structures will necessitate improvements to the I-5 highway and

interchanges, including the Hayden Island and Marine Drive Interchanges,

and to the local street network that connects those interchanges including

realignments, widening or extensions of or new connections between N

Marine Drive [and other listed streets] * * *. [Metro Council] also finds

that additional highway improvements are needed to integrate the transit

corridor extension into the existing transportation network and to facilitate

multimodal access to and from the existing light rail station at the Expo

Center and a new light rail station at Hayden Island."

Elsewhere in the findings, Metro explained:

"[T]he associated highway improvements directly and indirectly serve the

light rail improvements by accommodating the alignment (e.g., new I-5

bridges, new arterial bridge over the North Portland Harbor) or providing

regional and local access to the Expo Center and Hayden Island light rail

stations (e.g., I-5 interchange improvements, access and circulation

improvements and roadway modifications on Hayden Island and in the

vicinity of the Marine Drive interchange). The Council further finds that

some of the highway improvements are needed for engineering purposes to

accommodate the new bridge containing the light rail alignment and the

modifications to the I-5 interchanges and their approaches."

7 Because the light rail tracks required "grade-separated crossings" with

existing roads, those crossings "necessitate modifications to the I-5/Marine Drive

Interchange and connecting roadways including the realignments of N Vancouver Way