Washington Sen. Don Benton—part of the Republican majority that tanked $450 million in spending for the Columbia River Crossing this year—sent an open letter to Oregon Legislators today, telling them to do what his state's lawmakers did: let the project die.
With an Oregon-only, $2.8 billion CRC expected to be squeezed into Gov. John Kitzhaber's Sept. 30 special session on PERS, Benton urged Oregon lawmakers to vote it down.
"I assure you, pension reform and tax proposals will keep you busy enough during your time in Salem," he writes. "So if the CRC project comes up, you can do what Washington did and let the CRC die."
Benton reiterated Southwest Washington's dislike of light rail, and argued that bus rapid transit is a better fit and also eligible for the same federal money that would pay for light rail. He also brought up the issue of the bridge's height, saying that mitigation to pay off businesses because the CRC's twin 116-foot-high spans are too low adds tens of millions to the project's tab.
"And I will not even elaborate on the incompetence and corruption that has overshadowed this project since its conception, and already racked up a $170 million tab—far beyond the $50 million it was supposed to cost to get the project to the point of seeking full funding from our two states," he adds.
He then laid out several questions to lawmakers:
Why force tolls and light rail on the citizens of another state? Why build a very expensive bridge that will barely improve traffic flow and will handicap all future river commerce? Why replace a bridge that is structurally sound when dozens of bridges in the Portland area are in dire need of replacement or retrofitting? Who is pushing for this project? Do they have the best interests of Oregonians in mind?
Benton also says in a separate press release that an audit on the CRC conducted by the independent state auditor's office should be ready by April 2014.