State Senate leaders call for CRC investigation

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Senate GOP letter calls for CRC audit

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State Senate leaders on Friday asked Gov. Jay Inslee for a "formal, independent investigation" into the Columbia River Crossing, citing financial questions raised by two forensic accountants.

Members of the Republican-led majority caucus in the Senate said a comprehensive accounting review is warranted given previous findings on the proposed $3.4 billion Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

“If the Senate needs to pay for an investigation because the governor would rather not listen to those who are raising questions about the CRC, then he’s going to have to own any embarrassing findings that surface,” Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said in a released statement. “Based on the scrutiny the project has received already I expect there will be no shortage of those.”

Senate leaders cited the work of Vancouver accountant Tiffany Couch, who has published a series of reports critical of the CRC in recent months. Couch's findings were also vetted by another forensic accountant, Linda Saunders, of Jefferson County, the majority coalition said.

In addition to replacing the I-5 Bridge, the CRC would extend light rail into Vancouver and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River. Project backers are hoping state lawmakers will commit $450 million toward the CRC this year.

This story will be updated.