On Saturday, The Oregonian broke what seemed like big news on the front page of the Metro section under the headline "Obama to speed CRC project."
The story explained that President Obama is giving the the stalled Columbia River Crossing project "expedited"
“The Administration is committed to doing its part to help communities across the country move forward with these critical projects as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement to the daily.
The newspaper and other media treated this as real news—as if this announcement is a major milestone in the life of this troubled project.
But as is often the case with the proposed $3.5 billion Interstate 5 project, what the official sources say is not the whole story.
In fact, almost exactly four years ago, another president did exactly what Obama did on Friday. Here's the statement the federal Department of Transportation issued in August 2008:
"President Bush Issues Order to Expedite Columbia River Crossing
On August 5, 2008,
President Bush designated the Columbia River Crossing, also known as the Interstate 5 Bridge between Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, as a priority project under E.O. 13274. This designation was requested jointly by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation. For more information, visit the Priority Project section of this website or view the U.S. DOT press release."
Although Presidents Bush and Obama both announced plans to "expedite" the project, neither provided what the project continues to lack: money.
Permitting has not been the issue, as local, state and federal agencies have rubber-stamped the plan developed by the Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation.
But Congress—which is supposed to provide a third of the $3.5 billion cost—is not looking to send money to blue states these days; neither Washington or Oregon's Legislatures have approved the $450 million each state is supposed to provide; and the projected toll revenues that are to provide the final third have been found to be wildly inaccurate
So where does that leave the project?
About where it was before the Obama administration issued what amounts to recycling an election-year—2008—press release.
"The sooner the CRC faces its day of reckoning, the sooner we can stop wasting money on a project that we don't need, can't afford, and doesn't solve the region's transportation problems," says Portland economist Joe Cortright, a longtime critic of the project.