Commentary and notes by John Ley
Tuesday April 7th I attended the April 2015 RTC Board and made the following statements.
“Members of the Board, I would hope that you are as outraged as I am at what has been revealed regarding the $80 million proposed expenditure for the I-5 /Mill Plain interchange. Apparently one of two $80 million SW WA projects has no legitimate plans to back up the expenditure of this money. There is no engineering. Nothing to substantiate “how” or “why” the largest project you asked the state to pay for, is a legitimate request fulfilling a legitimate transportation need……………..
I have YOUR list of 34 projects. Each allegedly goes thru a non-political screening, evaluating very specific plans and being awarded points for “Safety”, “Mobility”, “Multi-modal”, and “Economic Development”. The purpose is supposedly to REMOVE politics from the process. I now have ZERO faith in YOUR ability to execute the process, and I would hope THIS BOARD has also lost faith.
This project got 14 of a possible 22 points for “Mobility”. REALLY? You don’t have plans to show how this improves “mobility”. This project was awarded 21 of 28 points for Economic Development. Yet you don’t have any documentation on how spending $80 million for THIS project improves Economic Development.
I’m outraged that this Mill Plain/I-5 project was rated #5 of our regions alleged “TOP transportation priorities” and can be approved by this body & forwarded to the state legislature for funding, with NO legitimate documentation……..”
Additional Notes On The Meeting
Rep. Paul Harris mentioned that Oregon is debating HB 3152, which would REMOVE the only HOV lane in Oregon. He stated that this would help SW WA citizens returning home from Portland in the afternoon, and that several Washington legislators had written letters to Oregon legislators in support of this bill. He added that it would IMPROVE the air quality for north Portland residents, by reducing the number of vehicles standing at idle on I-5.
Councilor David Madore made a motion that the RTC Board would send a letter of support for Oregon’s HB 3152. Jeanne Stewart seconded the motion.
Jeanne Stewart made some great “common sense” comments at the end. But the majority of the RTC Board chose to ignore her, the other two councilors, and Paul Harris.
There was considerable discussion, as an Oregon DOT rep. said the HOV lane was working “as planned” in that it moves more people (the buses move faster). But if you eliminated the HOV lane, it would move more cars, but fewer people. Jack Burkman led the “don’t do this” discussion. Councilor Jeanne E. Stewart responded, expressing the frustration drivers feel while stuck in the 2 non-moving lanes. She asked for the common sense solution to be done, which was to remove the HOV lane so that traffic flow would improve.
David Madore requested a roll call vote, so that each member of the RTC Board’s vote would be recorded. All three County Councilors voted “yes”.
Camas representative Melissa Smith voted “No”. Battle Ground representative Bill Ganley abstained, not having time to discuss the issue with Mayors or elected representatives of the other small cities he represents.
The “no’s” led by Jack Burkman & Larry Smith carried the day. The SW Washington RTC does NOT support the removal of the only HOV lane in Oregon to help improve traffic flow for the afternoon commute.
Another sad fact came to light was that the taxpayers are spending $12,400 to send RTC executive Matt Ransom to Harvard for 3 weeks in June. To learn what, we can only speculate.
There was a discussion over the annual “dues” pay towards RTC’s operations. Clark County has the largest share — $36,300. CTran pays $25,000, Vancouver $21,300, Camas $3,500, Washougal $2,400, Battle Ground $3,100, Ridgefield and other small cities less than $1,000. The Port of Vancouver pays $4,000 and the Port of Camas/Washougal pays $2,000. These rates have apparently been the same, since the RTC was founded in 1992. They will do a “review” and present options for a different allocation of the $104,500 annual dues. The county feels it is paying much more than its “fair share” of the dues.
Additionally, about 84% of the RTC’s operating budget comes from federal funds and about 10% from Washington State.
At the end of the meeting, Councilor David Madore asked if anyone on the RTC Board had any specific information about the Mill Plain/I-5 project. Nobody responded. He asked for a show of hands if anyone had any information on the specific details regarding this proposal. No hands were raised. At the very end, Matt Ransom said there were links on the RTC web site for various projects, but it was offered half-heartedly in my opinion.
Two small side notes. Melissa Smith spent a year acting as “Vice Chairman” of the RTC, supposedly preparing to become Chairman. Yet she is constantly seeking help and input from Jack Burkman on how to run the meeting, etc. Additionally, a citizen entered the meeting during my “citizen communication” and noticed one board member playing solitaire on their computer . . . . . (and we’re paying these people’s salaries).