Political Beat

Herrera Beutler questions absence of CRC oversight reports

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, this week asked the Federal Transit Administration why regular oversight reports on the Columbia River Crossing abruptly stopped last year.

In a letter sent to FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan, Herrera Beutler questioned the reasoning behind suspending a regular source of detailed — and often critical — analysis of the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

The Project Management Oversight Consultant group had for years issued monthly reports on the project, now being pursued as a $2.7 billion effort with Oregon in the lead. The PMOC, an independent group, routinely questioned the CRC’s timing and financing, and helped bring to light the project’s insufficient bridge height in 2012.

But the group issued its last report in May 2013. Meanwhile, the Oregon Legislature is mulling whether to carry the CRC forward without the support of their counterparts in Washington.

“Given the significant impact of the vote on the residents of Southwest Washington and the entire region I am extremely perplexed by the decision to discontinue this important source of information,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “One can only imagine that in order for the legislators to have the information they need to make the best decision for their constituents, reports with this level of detail and information would be essential, particularly considering the unprecedented ramification of the Oregon legislature’s actions.”

Oregon lawmakers are set to hear public testimony on the CRC during a hearing in Salem this afternoon. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has said that without action by the legislature this session, the project will die. Again.

Herrera Beutler’s letter asks who made the decision to discontinue the PMOC reports. The PMOC process was created by Congress to ensure proper oversight for federal projects, including the CRC, according to the congresswoman.

“Suspending the work of the PMOC for eight months suggests that FTA is both unaware and uninterested in the status of the ongoing costs and timing of the project,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “It also appears the agency is simply ignoring Congress’s mandate.”

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.

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