With the special legislative session over, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) has conceded the Columbia River Crossing is dead—for this year, anyway.
Kotek tried hard to move legislation that would have funded an Oregon-only version of the Columbia River Crossing project in the short legislative session that ends today.
But absent Washington's willingness to fund its share of what had been, up until last July, a bi-state partnership, members of both chambers showed a distinct lack of interest in moving a bill this session.
Here's the statement Kotek issued this afternoon.
âLast year, the Oregon Legislature took action to replace the I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River and upgrade the adjacent intersections. This project, as recognized by the federal government and local planning processes, has been the most important transportation infrastructure need facing our state and the Pacific Northwest. The current 100-year-old bridge is seismically unsound and inadequate for the freight and transit we need for our future economic growth. Drawbridge lifts leave commuters, trucks, and emergency vehicles stalled on the bridge roughly 400 times per year. Bike and pedestrian access is unsafe and unacceptable. Negative impacts from traffic and pollution on residents neighboring the bridge are intolerable.
âWhen the Washington Legislature failed to follow our lead and hold up their end of the bargain, Oregon leaders regrouped. We knew we were in danger of losing years of preparation and millions of federal dollars, while potentially setting the project back another decade or more. Governor Kitzhaber, legislators, and business, labor, and transportation leaders came together to develop an Oregon-led plan that could responsibly move the project forward. That plan accounted for Washington Stateâs reduced participation, yet still required their partnership in order for Oregon to move forward. An Oregon-led project was deemed to be technically, administratively, operationally, financially and legally possible.
âThe Oregon House of Representatives stood ready to enact the Oregon-led plan. Iâm proud of our leadership in the House, and for my colleaguesâ dedication to finally addressing this longstanding weakness in Oregonâs transportation system.
âIn the end, however, Washington again failed to step up. Even though a majority of Washington legislators signed a letter of support, action was required by Governor Jay Inslee to move forward. Absent clear, public commitment from Governor Inslee and the necessary memoranda of understanding between our two states, an Oregon-led project will not be approved this year.
âI want to thank everyone who worked incredibly hard to move the project forward. I especially want to thank the hundreds of residents in my district, particularly the community leaders from the Hayden Island, Bridgeton and East Columbia neighborhoods, who collaborated to create the best possible project and advocated on behalf of their neighbors to improve the safety and livability of their community.
âOregon faces many challenges. These challenges require leaders with courage and a willingness to step up to tackle them head on. Oregonians should know that in 2013 the Oregon Legislature acted, and in 2014, the Oregon House was ready to lead again.â
"On March 7, the Oregon Legislature adjourned without reinstating construction funds for the CRC I-5 Bridge Replacement project. As identified in Governor Kitzhaberâs January 27, 2014 letter to legislative leadership, the project will begin the process of orderly archival and closeout. We have the fiduciary responsibility to close out the project in a systematic, retrievable manner in order to adequately preserve a decade of research, environmental reviews, community involvement, and detailed engineering work for potential future use. We will archive work products according to Oregon record retention requirements. Expenditures will be reduced immediately; further design and deliverable development will not occur. The project will shut down completely by May 31, 2014.