Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett is telling business leaders that a special session to fund the Columbia River Crossing must happen this fall, or money and support will fall apart.
Reported by Columbian reporter Eric Florip, Garrett addressed a Portland breakfast forum today saying that without a special session, the project won't break ground next year.
It's a change from the urgent official line of just more than a month ago: That the project would lose its federal money if lawmakers didn't approve the controversial megaproject before Sept. 30.
(Probably because that wasn't true. The project continues, and Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has said that officials were lying about a deadline).
Garrett moved the bar this morning. The Columbian reported this:
Lawmakers will have to come back to Salem before their next regular session in February if the project has any hope of starting construction in December 2014 as planned, Garrett said.
“I want to be clear. That conversation needs to happen right now,” Garrett said. “I do believe we are at a hinge moment on this project.”
Garrett's speech was likely to get business leaders to prod lawmakers into a special session. Gov. John Kitzhaber has said he wants one, but Senate President Peter Courtney (D, Salem) says if the project comes up at all, it should wait until next year's regular session.
“The world will not wait for the Columbia River Crossing, because other communities are moving forward, and rightly so,” Garrett is quoted as saying.
And, as WW reported last week, court documents show that state officials say the CRC may not even need lawmakers to approve the project for some time; they argue that planning and engineering can continue to the point of construction before the legislature absolutely must commit $450 million to the CRC.