This paper recently editorialized on my efforts to give Clark County citizens a voice in the Columbia River bridge replacement process ("Herrera Beutler botches the job," The Daily Astorian, Feb. 6). Simply put, it missed the mark on several critical claims. I'd like to set the record straight on my work in Congress to replace this bridge.
The vote I am pushing for is not a referendum on replacing the Columbia River bridge, as was claimed. In fact, all along I have strongly advocated for a new bridge that meets our region's needs. However, adding light rail to a new Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge to cross into Clark County would force county residents to pay higher local taxes to fund operations and maintenance. The voters of Clark County deserve to choose whether they want light rail and want to pay for it.
Another incorrect claim was on tolls. My efforts to give citizens a vote on light rail had nothing to do with tolling. Tolls are set at the state level.
This paper also claimed that my push for a vote was a surprise move - the biggest error of all. For years, Clark County commissioners, Vancouver (Wash.) City Council members, business leaders, and citizens have been calling for a vote on light rail. I began pushing for a vote soon after my election to Congress, but it still hasn't been scheduled. Unfortunately, certain officials and bureaucrats seem to be slow-walking the process, hoping to wait until citizens will have no choice but to approve the funding for light rail or risk collapsing the whole project.
I did not feel it was appropriate to consult Oregon on whether Washington residents should vote on bringing light rail into Clark County. Nor do I expect an Oregon congressman to ask me whether Portland should get to vote on a Portland transit project. Consequently, last week I took action in Congress to require a vote of Clark County citizens in order to build light rail on the I-5 bridge. At the same time, I also voted for a bill in Congress that would help provide the federal funding for this project.
My goal is a bridge that the entire region wants, will use, and is willing to pay for. A public vote will go a long way toward that goal.
JAIME HERRERA BEUTLER
Member of Congress, Southwest Washington