One of the strongest legislative supporters of the proposed Columbia River Crossing project, Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, appears to have given up on the project, according to an email obtained by the The Columbian.
Gov. John Kitzhaber and other backers of the CRC went all-in with a Jan. 14 legislative hearing in Salem designed to rally support for the proposed $2.8 billion highway project connecting Portland and Vancouver. They had hoped to move lawmakers toward a showing of support for the CRC in the upcoming February legislative session.
But that hearing was a debacle, as skeptical lawmakers from both parties punched holes in supporters' gossamer-thin explanation of how an Oregon-only CRC would work. (Washington, which had been a full partner in the CRC, bailed out last July when its Senate declined to match the $450 million Oregon lawmakers had earlier voted to spend on the project).
The Oregon Department of Transportation officials and their consultants could not explain how Oregon would collect tolls from Washingtonians who would make up the majority of users of the new bridge; could not explain how the metro area would deal with the diversion of an estimated 40,000 vehicles a day from I-5 to I-205; could not satisfy lawmakers' concerns about what would happen in the event of the cost-overruns that frequently plague mega-projects; and could not explain how the project would impact I-84 and the many other competing highway projects around the state.
Last night, The Columbian published an email from Beyer to Washington State Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center). Beyer, who co-chaired the interim CRC oversight committee that held the Jan. 14 hearing, gave Rivers a glum assessment according the Columbian's story (emphasis added):