Oregon Gov. won’t Approve Columbia River Crossing Project without Light Rail

Tom Warne Report, 26 April 2013

Seattle Times – April 24, 2013

OLYMPIA – Oregon’s governor says the $3.4 billion proposed Columbia River Crossing bridge project will not be allowed to move forward if Washington state pulls light rail plans from the project. Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office released a statement Monday on the issue, as the Washington Legislature reaches the final days of its session, which concludes this Sunday.

“Governor Kitzhaber has been clear from the start: No light rail. No project. No kidding,” Tim Raphael, a spokesman for Kitzhaber, said the statement.

The I-5 bridge connecting Vancouver and Portland has been planned for years, and is largely dependent upon whether Washington state decides to front its $450 million share of the cost. Washington’s Democrats support the project, but the state Senate, controlled by GOP majority, will not approve any bridge proposal that contains light rail.

It is possible, but unlikely, that the Legislature will act on an $8.4 billion transportation tax package before the end of the session, according to House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. The package includes funding the Columbia River Crossing project. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cautioned state lawmakers that they may lose $1.2 billion in federal support for the project if they do not commit several hundred million dollars toward the bridge.

Plans for the rail line would connect Vancouver commuters to Portland light rail service, and Gov. Kitzhaber’s office will not budge on the issue.

“Any analysis that claims there is a quick, easy or advisable way to remove light rail from the Interstate 5 bridge-replacement is fundamentally flawed,” Raphael said. “Light rail is not an add-on. It is a critical part of an integrated, multimodal, bi-state solution that improves safety, manages traffic, protects air quality and supports the region’s economy. We’d be starting over on federal funding and permitting. Without light rail, there is no project.”

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