U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is in Olympia today, doing all he can to help the flailing Columbia River Crossing—but even one of the project's biggest supporters says it might not be enough.
"We are using everything in our bag of tricks
to bring everything to bear," says Washington State Rep. Jim Moeller
(D-Vancouver), who has been the project's champion in Olympia. "If we could get the president himself, I'd ask."
But Moeller is also reading the tea leaves: this $3.4 billion megaproject is probably going to die in the next few weeks
. It's the first sign that proponents are acknowledging that the political wrangling to push this project through may fail.
"I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m also a realist that this may not happen,
" he tells WW
The CRC—which will replace Interstate 5's bridges, run light rail to Vancouver and pump up five miles of interchanges—needs $450 million from Oregon and Washington this year, project leaders say. If not, the project will lose its spot for federal funding.
Thanks to the efforts of Gov. John Kitzhaber's
top adviser on the project, Patricia McCaig
(the subject of a WW cover story
who now faces
Oregon Government Ethics Commission complaints), the CRC sailed through the Oregon house and senate. But the Washington Senate, led by state Sen. Ann Rivers
(R-LaCenter) and the subject of a WW story
, is vowing to block it.
Despite the successes in Oregon, Moeller isn't expecting the same in Washington. He says the Republicans will be setting "us back a generation" by blocking the project's funding.
"It ain’t over yet, and it won’t be over for a couple weeks," Moeller says. "It just may not be over in my favor."