Lack of space aside, it was a fascinating event. Outside of the hearing the anti-tolls and anti-light rail folks fighting against the CRC Bridge project were out in full force. My favorite sign of theirs said, "Don't light rail to nowhere; Portlandia to Nowhere, USA." If found this funny, I guess they don't have a very high regard for their community. The pro-bridge, pro-light rail group was out in even greater numbers. I snapped a bunch of photos, which I'll post later.
In the meantime check out our twitter feed @transpochoices where I put up a running dialogue of the meeting. A few highlights:
- Chairmen Mica (FL) opened up the floor saying he didn't want to talk about a specific project, but instead wanted ideas on how to make federal transportation policy better. Congresswomen Herrera Beutler spoke immediately after him and all she talked about was CRC, It was quite bizarre.
- Michael Ennis of the Washington policy center went into his typical anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-light rail tirade but Chairmen Mica cut him off saying he didn't want to listen to his talking points but wanted constructive ideas.
- Mica also cut off David Madore of notolsl.com and Secretary Hammond when they started reading their prepared presentations. Madore did not pivot well at all and did not look good. He even went as far to attack bureaucrats and elected officials, saying elected officials are on the take from project supporters, which is a puzzling considering he pumped $200,000 of his own money into no-tolls candidates. This guy basically is becoming the Kemper Freeman of Vancouver. Paula Hammond on the other hand, pivoted with class and skill. Not only that, her messaging was right on and immediately started talking about Amtrak Cascades and doing more with less as an agency. She discussed how they are shifting their focus from new road capacity to maintenance, smart highways, transit, rail, and variable tolling. I basically wanted to stand up and clap hearing these priorities coming directly from Secretary Hammond.