The 2013 legislative session ended today with the passage of a new two-year capital budget. The transportation-revenue package that would have provided Washington’s share of Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project funding failed to progress in the final hours of the session.
“I take neither pleasure nor joy in this eventuality,” said Sen. Ann Rivers. “It is disappointing to have received this proposal on the 161st day of the legislative session and be asked to vote on it on day 164. The unwillingness of proponents to improve the project has led to its demise. After 10 years and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the only thing the CRC project office has to show for its work is a sub-par bridge permit application that will likely not be approved.“
When the House failed to advance the bonding bill that would have paid for the transportation revenue package, it was clear the legislation was in trouble.
“This is the third and most important leg of the stool for transportation-package funding,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “They did not send it over because they could not get their members to vote for the bonding.”
Rivers believes the time has come to look for new solutions for improving the Interstate 5 crossing between Washington and Oregon.
“We can do better than the original CRC plan that would have hindered Columbia River navigation and forced Clark County residents to pay for a light rail line they had already rejected.”
“Although a door has closed on what I believe was a deeply flawed proposal, this is a great opportunity for our region to create a new, much better Columbia River Crossing without the issues of the original plan,” said Rivers. “In the short term, I would like to see the current bridges retrofitted to increase safety. Then we can expand existing transit options – bus rapid transit on the vehicular bridges and commuter rail service on the railroad bridge.”
The Legislature had included $81 million for the CRC project in the transportation budget passed in April. In an effort to force full funding, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed that provision when he signed the bill into law. Oregon lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year committing $450 million to the CRC as their “half” of the project. That funding was contingent, however, on Washington making a similar commitment. Both states had to have funding in place to qualify for federal dollars this year. Rivers said it is unlikely that the U.S. Coast Guard will issue a bridge permit for a project that hasn’t secured funding.
“The Majority Coalition Caucus is committed to a transportation plan that works for the entire state,” said Rivers. “I anticipate there will be several transportation town-hall meetings throughout the state later this year, followed by a new proposal for the 2014 session. It is my intention to participate to the fullest in that effort.”