CRC odds and ends

Following the Columbia River Crossing is, as the saying goes, like drinking from a fire hose.

Here are a few developments from the past week that you may have missed…

The Oregon Legislature has introduced a bill to pay its state share of the $3.5 billion project. House Bill 2800 would allow the state to borrow up to $450 million — the amount CRC leaders are counting on from both Oregon and Washington to help build the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement. But the Oregon bill also places several important conditions on that money.

The bill would allow Oregon to pay only if:

  • Washington state lawmakers come up with their share of the project’s finance plan.

  • The federal government comes through with at least $800 million for light rail.

  • Toll revenue pencils out through the investment grade analysis now underway.

  • The U.S. Coast Guard approves plans for a 116-foot-high bridge. The CRC filed its bridge permit application on Jan. 30.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing Monday.

Clackamas County commissioners in Oregon failed to pass a resolution opposing the CRC. The resolution (on page 34 of the agenda), pushed by newly elected board chair John Ludlow, would have declared that the county “strongly objects to the efforts to commit any funding to the Columbia River Crossing as currently planned.” The item inspired a similar resolution here in Clark County.

But Clackamas County’s version didn’t get enough votes to pass Thursday. Ludlow and Commssioner Tootie Smith voted yes. Commissioner Martha Schrader voted no. Commissioner Paul Savas abstained. Commissioner Jim Bernard was not present.

That left the resolution short of the required three votes to pass the five-member commission. Clark County commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday.

Last Friday, Washington state Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee expressing her support for the CRC. Eide, co-chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, argued that the project has come too far and is too important to turn away from current plans.

“Starting over will leave the states of Washington and Oregon with a vulnerable bridge that is nearly 100 years old that does not adequately meet basic economic and safety needs in its most important commercial corridor,” Eide wrote.

Eide’s letter follows an earlier letter from the transportation committee’s other co-chair, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima. King, who has been critical of the CRC, called for a “new direction” on the project and laid out a five-point plan to rethink the CRC. That includes dropping light rail, currently planned as part of the project.

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