Click here to watch “The Impact” – February 22, 2017
This week on “The Impact”:
A big bridge project is back in the spotlight. Traffic gridlock, population growth, economic repercussions and seismic safety concerns are behind a bipartisan push by Clark County lawmakers to look at replacing the I-5 Columbia River Bridge that connects Vancouver to Portland. The renewed effort follows the controversial Columbia River Crossing project that was discontinued in 2014 after several years of work and $197 million dollars spent between the state departments of transportation in Oregon and Washington.
New legislative proposals sparked strong reactions from supporters and opponents.
“Why now and what’s different? There have been a lot of changes in the few short years since the CRC came off the table as a possibility. A major shipper left the Port of Portland. The I-5 bridge connects the Port of Portland, the Port of Vancouver and now there’s a lot more truck traffic. Other traffic has already increased and now we have a casino that’s going to be opening up in La Center that’s going to be increasing the traffic still more. The public is asking why, why didn’t we proceed? Why didn’t we find a solution? And the demand is growing from the business community and others that we do something. We have over 65,000 people that go to Oregon every day?” said Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.
“…. absolutely nothing is going to happen about congestion until our legislators sit down, eyeball to eyeball to come up with solutions for a short term and a long term. And there’s a famous saying about a failure to plan is a plan for failure,” said Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas. “There’s an analogy of moving a 6 inch pipe and connecting it with a 3 inch pipe and expecting 6 inches of water to come out the other end – it’s not going to happen. And that’s the situation we have right now in the I-5 corridor. So if we really want to fix it we have to also look at additional corridors.”
“Freight haulers and commuters are fed up. The I-5 bridge could use many improvements, but rebuilding or upgrading this bridge will only provide a newer, albeit safer, over water parking lot,” said concerned citizen Neil Cahoon.
“What we need is a replacement for that I-5 bridge that already has the corridor there, we need it now and I urge you to support this bill to start moving that forward,” said Sean Guard, Mayor, City of Washougal.
“I live at the North end of the bridge and I travel it several times a week and I testify that it’s slow all the way to Portland. And the business about focusing on the bridge seems very shortsighted to those of us who have experienced it all these years,” said concerned citizen Bill Wagner.
“We support this bipartisan, bicameral, bi-state approach to restarting the stalled replacement of the I-5 bridge. You know you hear about the I-5 corridor congestion with this old bridge and it really affects the mainline, but not a lot of people realize that it’s smothering our city right now,” said Vancouver City Councilman Jack Burkamn.
Then we highlight the debate over whether to scale back the number of course credits that will be required for students to graduate from high school starting in 2019. Currently, high school seniors need 20 course credits in specified subjects in order to graduate. Starting in 2019, with limited exceptions, students will need 24 credits to graduate due to state legislation and policies implemented by the Washington State Board of Education. Those changes might not take effect if House Bill 1509 is approved. It would replace the 24 credit requirement with a 21 credit requirement containing more flexibility for career and technical courses.
“I would argue that we’re not necessarily going back. We are not at a point where we are implementing 24 credits statewide at this point. Making the move to 24 credits without increasing the length of the school year or the length of the school day basically requires districts to shorten the amount of time that students have to learn,” said Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. “Going to 24 credits without giving more time just made it harder for kids to graduate.”
“My concern is that with employers that say look the kids that graduating from high school are not ready for employment or colleges that see that they’re not ready I feel that if we don’t give them the broad array of courses that they’re not really prepared for beyond that even just life,” said Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington. “The ones that concern me the most are dropping an English course and a science course. I run into people every day that can’t grammatically put a sentence together.”
Other topics in this week’s episode include: plans to restore grizzly bear populations in Washington’s North Cascades Ecosystem; the fate of bills to ban or restrict assault weapons and high capacity magazines; bills to create an immigration and citizenship hotline and website; and bills to prohibit state agencies from disclosing information about individual religious affiliation for the purposes of creating a federal database.