Although governors in Washington and Oregon said they were pulling the plug on the Columbia River Crossing project, state Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, pointed out on Friday that “we still have until September to meet the deadline” for paying Washington state’s share of the CRC.
In a statement praising Gov. Jay Inslee for his dedication to the project this year, Eide added: “I hold out hope that those who have stymied the project so fare will realize the stakes and join with the governor and us in moving our state forward in everyone’s best interests.”
Washington legislators adjourned on June 30 after a 105-day regular legislative session and two special overtime sessions totaling 48 days. Before adjourning, they had the opportunity to pass a $10 billion transportation package that would have raised gas taxes by 10.5 cents a gallon and committed $450 million to the CRC.
The Senate’s conservative majority caucus wasn’t keen on passing the package, saying that the state should reform its transportation system first to make the projects in the package more affordable.
CRC project leaders had hoped to have state and local money committed this year so it could apply for the $850 million federal New Starts grant this fall. Approving Washington’s share by that deadline means Inslee would need to call a third special legislative session, and that the Democratic-led House and the Senate’s conservative majority would need to agree on the plan.
This week, the Senate’s majority caucus said in a statement that it would work in the interim on transportation reform ideas that would make it easier for legislators to agree on a transportation package. Those reforms would be introduced next year at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session, they said. That’s too late for the CRC.
“We’re going to be leading the discussion about transportation and demanding reforms before we do revenue,” state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said in the statement.