The plan is far from finalized. Oregon officials are formulating the specifics, and then they would need approval from the federal government, which controls the interstate freeway system.
But the issue demonstrates Clark County’s lack of power. The same can be said for efforts to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge and the pursuit of additional bridges across the Columbia; we can propose all the bridges we like, but if they aren’t welcome on the Oregon side of the river, they amount to bridges to nowhere.
With two states, two counties, multiple cities, a regional government in Oregon and two transportation departments involved in discussions, progress is difficult. Too many cooks spoil the broth, after all — an apt metaphor for transportation issues in this region.
All of that should lead to new bistate thinking about how to govern. One example is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Formed in 1921, the Port Authority is an interstate compact authorized by Congress that oversees regional transportation infrastructure — bridges, tunnels, airports and seaports. The agency’s motto — “We Keep the Region Moving” — is positively inspiring when compared with the gridlock that encompasses transportation issues in our region.
A local agency would not be a panacea. There would be concerns about accountability, with voters having little direct control. And there would be questions about the efficacy of adding another layer of bureaucracy. But if organized properly, a port authority could eliminate bureaucracy elsewhere and pursue solutions that right now have ground to a halt. Those solutions could benefit residents on both sides of the river and, therefore, boost the economy of the entire region.
At this point, we are desperate for such solutions, grasping for ideas born out of frustration.