Thursday, November 08, 2012

LRT defeat jeopardizes bistate bridge project

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Voters in Clark County, Wash., on Tuesday rejected a proposed 0.1% sales tax to extend light rail transit across the Columbia River from Oregon—and that rejection could jeopardize a multimodal bridge designed to address bistate transportation.

Clark County voters spurned Proposition 1 by a 56%-to-44% margin, which would have helped fund a (Portland) TriMet LRT extension across the state line and also fund a 6.7-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route.

But in so doing, county voters have put at risk $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing, including road and rail, which would largely be aided by federal funds.

"The federal government will not provide funding for capital costs without assured local funding for operations," said economist Joe Cortright in an email to local media. "The Federal Transit Administration requires that local transit agencies show that they can finance new service without cutting back existing service before it will grant money for new capital projects."

At present, only St. Louis-based MetroLink operates a bistate LRT system, connecting Missouri and Illinois points across the Mississippi River. LRT advocates in Staten Island, N.Y., have expressly voiced support for extending New Jersey Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT) operations across the Kill Van Kull.