Ballot Measures

The General Election, this November will include Advisory Vote# 1 which invites Clark County Citizens to support or oppose the proposal for a private firm to build a toll-free East County Bridge based on specifications that were voter approved last November. Here is the resolution that your Clark County Commissioners referred to voters this past November as Advisory Vote# 3.

Last year, Clark County Citizens approved the original resolution that directed Clark County Commissioners to provide leadership, to support the project, to explore the bridge design, cost and finance options, and to present a detailed, researched proposal to you if we were successful in gaining your approval. We are thankful that a design/build/transportation architect team has presented our community with a great East County Bridge solution.

Here are the election result maps of the 2013 advisory votes:

223 out of 228 precincts said No to the CRC Light Rail project on Advisory Vote#1 (left). And 198 out of 228 precincts said Yes to the toll-free East County Bridge Advisory Vote#3 (right).

223 out of 228 precincts said No to the CRC Light Rail project on Advisory Vote#1 (left).
And 198 out of 228 precincts said Yes to the toll-free East County Bridge Advisory Vote#3 (right).

The process of moving forward from here starts with the people. If our community embraces the opportunity for this bridge, this vote translates to a directive to your elected representatives to work on your behalf to get it done.

The November 2014 Ballot Measure will be as follows:

Ballot Question:
TOLL-FREE EAST COUNTY BRIDGE ADVISORY VOTE (provided by Clark County’s Prosecuting Attorney)

The Clark County Board of Commissioners submits to the voters of the County, for their approval or rejection, Resolution 2014-07-27 which supports a proposed toll-free East County Bridge and a community embraced projects policy.

Shall the voters approve proposed Resolution 2014-07-27 for a toll-free East County Bridge?


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT FOR ADVISORY VOTE (provided by Clark County’s Prosecuting Attorney):
The Board of Clark County Commissioners proposes to adopt, by resolution, several guiding principles designed to assure successful construction of a toll-free East County Bridge from SR14 at SE 192nd to Airport Way in Oregon for ultimate connection to I-84. If you want the Commissioners to pursue construction of a toll-free East County Bridge following the guiding principles adopted in Resolution 2014-07-27 you should vote yes, otherwise vote no. The results of this vote are advisory only.

The Voters’ Pamphlet will include statements for and against the proposal with a rebuttal for each. To see the arguments for and against, the rebuttals, and the counterpoints from both pro and con committees, see the Arguments For and Against page.

Point by point response to the Statement Against the 2013 Toll-Free East County Bridge Advisory Vote

Clark County citizens will have a chance to vote on a newly proposed Toll-Free East County Bridge.  The ballot measure is on page 98 of the Clark County voters’ pamphlet at with the full proposal on page 112.

Our decisions are only as good as the information they are based on.  The Toll-Free East County Bridge proposal welcomes scrutiny. The voters’ pamphlet provides a very limited space for the pro and con statements and rebuttals.  This page provides a more complete response to the published statement against this project.  The line by line format addresses each point. Red quotes the original point from the statement against.  Blue is our response.

The resolution- Clark County Advisory Vote #3- is full of errors and ill advised. 
In contrast to broad generalities, compelling arguments should be specific and logical. Please read the resolution on page 112 of the Voter Pamphlet and see that five “Because” reasons simply state why a vote of the people is appropriate.  The rest of the resolution lists the proposed specifications for the bridge and the process that would ensure its success.  As you can see from this content, the detractor’s “full of errors” is not even relevant to this content.   

The “ill advised” claim is false as a qualified expert transportation architect provided the plans for this proposed bridge.  See for the architect’s credentials who provided the engineering, the estimated costs, and the professional research that concluded that this is the best solution for our region.

This is not a County-level only project but a multi-state and federal project.
The proposed East County Bridge is to serve our community while providing congestion relief for two interstate freeways that connect our community, both states, and all other interstate traffic that must cross the Columbia River.

The East Bridge needs Oregon’s approval.
This project must comply with the standards set by WSDOT, ODOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Coast Guard.  Their approvals are logical steps in the process of advancing and building this project.  But the private contractor that wins the bid will be in charge of designing and building the project in compliance with the standards set by these authorities. 

We all see the disastrous consequences of placing such a project in the hands of a public bureaucracy and expecting practical results.   The CRC bureaucracy, after 11 years and $170 million, still had not produced a design. When the plug was finally pulled, that project was years behind schedule with gross cost overruns and still in a “concept” phase for a bridge too low.  The rest of the country successfully and competitively builds highways and bridges for a fraction of the cost and normally complete such projects on time.  That proven process and model of success is foundational to this project.

Oregon’s Transportation Planning Rule, HB2001 greenhouse gas reduction statute, and Metro’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan prohibit projects such as this car-oriented, toll-free bridge that increase vehicle miles traveled and induce sprawl.
The statement falsely asserts that a third highway to connect our two states that relieves congestion, increases greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are reduced by relieving congestion as we all know that we get better mileage when traffic is freely flowing compared to sitting in stop and go traffic.  This project helps us all to reduce vehicle emissions by improving mileage and by providing a shorten route for many drivers.  The concentration of emissions is also reduced where it is worst, in the existing freeway corridors. 

Highways, especially interstate highways, must be car-oriented.  Slow light rail trains limited to steel wheels on tracks are no substitute for the flexibility and mobility of cars and trucks.  Cars are getting smarter with a trend toward all electric designs that produce zero emissions.  

This third bridge connects two existing corridors to improve the quality of life in existing communities independent of growth management policies.  Since this bridge does not change the inventory of lands that can be developed, this project is independent of anti-sprawl policies.

Without Oregon’s approval this third bridge will never happen.
Any bi-state project needs the approval of the appropriate authorities in both states.  That’s a good thing, not an argument against this project. 

This bridge is not a multi-state nor is it a federal funding priority.
Projects do not become a funding priority until they have been proposed, refined and approved by the affected communities and authorities.  We are at the proposal stage. The next stage is for the community to refine and accept or reject the proposal. If accepted, then the next logical step will be to pursue responsible funding. 

To illustrate, the Hood River area pushed for twelve years in similar circumstances to replace their toll bridge, has completed a Final EIS, and has no funding for the $240 million project. Like Hood River, Clark County will receive no funding. 
This defeatist attitude argues that we can never build anything so we should just forfeit this potentially important project.  Shouldn’t we diligently work together to champion a vision that moves us forward?  Rather than settling for discouragement and failure, let’s remember that just 30 years ago, we successfully built the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge that has proven to be an indispensable lifeline for our communities.  We should be thankful that this pessimism did not infect the champions that worked for that success. We are a community of winners, not losers. 

Without tolls, the only way Clark County can finance this bridge is to increase your taxes.
Built into this proposal is the requirement that the cost must not exceed a threshold that would trigger tolls.  If this proposal was for a toll bridge or if it morphed into a toll bridge, it would only be a matter of time before our other two bridges would be tolled.  That would do more harm than good.  Remember that drivers in Oregon and Washington pay some of the highest gas taxes in the nation. Four cents per gallon built the I-205 debt free and toll free.  We are now paying nearly 15 times that rate to fund projects like these.  Heaping tolls on top of our already high gas taxes would be double taxation.  Higher taxes are not needed.  What is needed is better management, smarter projects and competitive processes.

The current I-5 Bridge needs to be addressed and functioning before any third bridge can be considered.
Consider the backwards thinking that argues that 11 years of construction and lane closures on a major freeway should be undertaken without first building a third highway across the river.  The point argues against itself.  The Army Corp of Engineers continues to certify the I-5 Bridge as structurally sound with no weight restrictions and states that the bridge has many decades of useful life remaining.  Adding more lanes across the Columbia in the form of a third bridge to supplement the I-5 would be far smarter.

I-5 is the single most important roadway on the west coast, connecting Mexico, the United States and Canada.
This point is an argument for a third bridge to relieve the congestion on that important corridor and better connect our two states. This point too is an argument against itself. Not only does the I-5 connect the west coast, but Southwest Washington connects 14 states to our east via I-84.  A third bridge east of the I-205 would allow much of that traffic to bypass the Portland congestion bottlenecks. 

This argument overlooks an equally important Columbia River freight corridor that would be forfeited if the CRC Light Rail project is chosen over the East County Bridge project.  The Columbia River is the single most important freight corridor west of the Mississippi. The CRC Light Rail Bridge would obstruct vital ship traffic by reducing the vertical clearance for marine vessels from 178 to 116 feet.  The CRC negotiated $87 million to be paid to three local companies for the river obstruction that would result if the CRC project gets built.  Other companies such as JT Marine and many others, present and future, have yet to be compensated for the permanent loss of ship navigation access.

The current bridge connection is old, fraught with traffic snarls, bridge lifts and was not built to withstand a major seismic event. It is absolutely imperative that we have a safe and effective bridge to service this important roadway before any funds, time and energy are spent on secondary routes.
Any bridge west of the Portland Airport will need to have the same two key features as the I-5 Bridge.  The I-5 Bridge has a high span to provide vertical clearance for frequent barge traffic without requiring a lift, and a lift span for less frequent river traffic that requires exceptional vertical clearance.  These two provisions accommodate all river vessels and allow the bridge roadways to be low enough to connect to the street level highways on both sides of the river.  Our geography has low land elevation on the west side and high elevation on the east side of our region.  Those elevations require an I-5 type high span and lift span bridge on the west side of the county while allowing a lower cost I-205 type fixed span to be used on the east side of the county.

This non-binding advisory vote for Clark County is not a good idea and wastes tax dollars.
It would have been a good idea if people had been given the opportunity to vote on the CRC before abandoning it for lack of support after $170 million was wasted,  In 1994, a similar light rail project was proposed across the I-205.  Our leaders put the proposal on the ballot before spending millions on it. The majority of the people rejected the proposal.  Our representatives respected the election results and it too was abandoned with minimal losses.  The cost to put this on the ballot is 25,000 times less than the amount already spent on the failed CRC project.  On such large projects, it is always smarter to ask the voters first.  Let’s not repeat the same mistake as the CRC.  That $170 tuition payment should have taught us to ask the people first. 

The following is a copy of the 2013 “statement for” this proposal as published in the voters’ pamphlet:

Which bridge proposal is based on actual engineering and true cost estimates? In contrast to the other proposals, the East County Bridge design and cost estimates were provided by a qualified transportation architect.

The ideal third bridge location for our region is 4 miles east of I-205 to connect SR-14 at 192nd Ave near Camas to I-84 in Gresham Oregon. Regional congestion relief would be provided by more evenly distributing traffic across three bridges. The third bridge would provide an alternate path for emergency vehicles and redundancy in case another bridge became blocked.

In contrast to the other proposals that require costly lift-spans, the natural elevation of SR-14 at this location is high enough to allow a simple low cost I-205 Bridge type fixed-span design to accommodate all present and future ship navigation. It appears that few structures would be impacted by this project, one building and some floating homes in Oregon, none in Washington.

The low cost, low maintenance, toll-free, debt-free I-205 Bridge, built just 30 years ago, proves that we can build this. The people and local leaders of our communities can work together to make this proposal even better.

This authentic proposal, backed by real engineering and realistic cost estimates, will allow us to simply and quickly connect our bi-state community with a third toll-free highway across the Columbia River. If you recognize this as the practical solution and good-faith choice, vote Yes on the East County Bridge proposal.
– end of statement –