Economic groups urge lawmakers to find dollars for CRC

In letter, organizations outline benefits to businesses

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Letter supporting CRC

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Three Southwest Washington business and economic organizations sent a letter to the chairwomen of the state legislative transportation committees urging them to commit funds to the Columbia River Crossing project during this year’s session.

A joint letter from the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Columbia River Economic Development Council and Identity Clark County was delivered Tuesday to Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee.

The letter urged them to push for money for the project in the proposed $3.6 billion transportation funding package.

However, the funding package proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire currently includes money for maintenance of existing infrastructure, not for new projects, such as the $3.5 billion CRC.

The groups focused on the economic benefits they believe will come through construction of a new Interstate 5 bridge; highway, bicycle and pedestrian improvements; and light rail to Clark College.

“This project provides badly needed jobs, addresses long-standing earthquake safety issues, significantly reduces traffic congestion in one of the West Coast’s most significant freight corridors, accommodates future regional growth by adding light rail and will be a standing legacy of our generation for decades to come,” according to the letter.

Delays feared

The Columbia River Crossing recently received formal approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which issued a Record of Decision. The economic and business organizations expressed concern that the absence of progress in support from Washington state could send a negative signal to other state and federal partners, and cause unnecessary delays in construction.

Construction is set to start in 2013 if funding falls into place -- CRC Director Nancy Boyd has said that timeline is “optimistic.”

“While we do recognize the fiscal challenges that our state faces during these economically challenging times, Washington state financial support now is critically needed for the Columbia River Crossing project to move forward,” the letter read.