Clark County residents who still have something to say about the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) of the $3.6 billion Columbia River Crossing Bridge and Light Rail project have until midnight Oct. 24 to submit comments to the CRC office.
Representatives of the CRC held two open houses at the Vancouver Public Library Oct. 12 to allow visitors to study large-scale renderings of the project, which will replace the existing I-5 bridges with a new span, bring light rail to downtown Vancouver, and expand highway interchanges where I–5 intersects SR 14 and SR 500.
Citizens at the event had mixed opinions about the CRC project.
Vancouver’s Ralph Brooks expressed disgust that citizens didn’t have an opportunity to vote on light rail in the first place.
“I thought we were supposed to get a vote,” he said. “Do we get to say whether Portland jams light rail down our throats or not? That’s yes or no.”
However, Randy Burg, a project manager with Oregon-based Hamilton Construction, said he was anxious to see construction begin. His company was involved with the construction of the Salmon Creek Interchange in Vancouver two years ago and he hopes to bid on elements of the CRC.
“I think we’re excited to see it get built,” Burg said.
Burg did have concerns about aspects of the construction on Hayden Island – and the resulting traffic that will be forced to Marine Drive on the Oregon side – but he feels the Interstate Bridge is past its prime and the bridge lift, in particular, needs to go.
“To me, you have no business having a stop light in the middle of I-5,” he said.
Other visitors were Vancouver residents who will be directly impacted by construction. Shumway neighborhood resident Brenda Palmer says the CRC is going to claim her whole house as a “permanent partial acquisition” but she still can’t get a straight answer what that the means.
“When you ask these people anything you get political [answers],” Palmer said.
Palmer and her husband bought their house on East 41st Street only last year with no idea that it was in danger. They loved the house, in part, because they could afford the payments. Dean passed away last May, and Brenda says she can still manage on Dean’s Social Security payments as well as her own, but she wonders where she can find a comparable house in the neighborhood.
“Where are they going to find me a house in the same neighborhood with a $700 payment?” she asked.
Eric Dufenbach is another Vancouver resident whose life will be impacted by construction. He lives in the historic section of Vancouver east of I-5 and frequently walks to downtown. He is neutral on the idea of light rail, but only expects traffic and air pollution to get worse with all of the construction.
“I live close enough to I-5 that the sound from any construction as well as the sound of the freeway itself will, once it’s completed, intrude on my life and my neighbors’ lives,” he said.
Dufenbach pointed out if the CRC builds two large park and ride structures in downtown Vancouver offering free parking to commuters, it will only create more traffic and take more money away from the city.
“I’m concerned about the large amount of traffic those will generate [for people] to park for free to ride light rail,” he said. “[I’m concerned] how that will impact the city’s parking program, where others have to pay for parking.”
CRC spokesperson Anne Presentin, on hand to field questions, said that citizen comments were welcomed and will be included in the final statement of record if received by Oct. 24. She expects the Federal Transit Authority to issue a record of decision on the FEIS in December.
Citizens can send comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our continuing coverage of the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project.
Do you have information to share on the CRC? To respond anonymously call 260-816-1426. To allow your comments to be used on COUV.COM call 260-816-1429.