June 18th, 2013 12:45 pm | by ANDREA DAMEWOOD News | Posted In: Activism, Politics, Transportation, PDX News

U.S. House Bill Would Make Funding for the Columbia River Crossing Even Tougher

news3_crc_3739ILLUSTRATION: nickstokesdesign.com

New legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives may put the Columbia River Crossing even further behind schedule.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation today upholds rules that keeps federal transit funding from going to projects like the CRC that haven't yet earned local funding and vital permits.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) is a member of the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies, who has actively campaigned to remove light rail from the $3.4 billion CRC.

Herrera Beutler, her camp says in a release, helped craft this year's appropriations bill, which contains the New Starts grant program that provides federal transit money for transportation projects. The CRC is hoping that the Federal Transit Administration will give the project $850 million in New Starts funding this year.

However, this year's bill, like those passed previously, would keep New Starts money from a project until it has its operations and maintenance funding in place; the local funding match in place; and all necessary permits.

The CRC fits none of those criteria. Clark County voters last fall rejected a local operations and maintenance sales tax for the CRC's planned extension of Portland's MAX light rail into downtown Vancouver; the Washington Legislature is yet to hand over $450 million required from the state to help pay for construction; and the U.S. Coast Guard has yet to grant a critical permit signing off on the bridge's height.

“Project advocates continue to state that the main priority for the CRC is safety,” Herrera Beutler says. “If that's really what they believe, then they should have no problem taking the divisive, controversial, and local light rail portion off the table. Let’s concentrate on building a bridge that can safely and efficiently move people, goods and services and can actually earn the support of the taxpayers and commuters who will pay for it.”

The release says that, under these new stipulations, 17 other projects around the nation stand ahead of the CRC in line for New Starts funding. Members of the Herrera Beutler's subcommittee are expected to approve the bill on Wednesday.

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