U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, on Wednesday asked for a better explanation of several Columbia River Crossing expenditures in a letter to project director Nancy Boyd.
The letter comes less than a week after an influential group of high-tech employers in Clark County lobbied Gov. Jay Inslee in support of the $3.4 billion project in a letter of their own.
Both letters were obtained Wednesday by The Columbian.
Herrera Beutler questioned why CRC money is marked for the expansion of a TriMet maintenance facility in Gresham, Ore., and for upgrades to Portland’s Steel Bridge, among other items. The CRC would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, rebuild nearby freeway interchanges and extend Portland light rail into Vancouver.
“Outside sources have investigated the financial documents for this project, which have raised some interesting questions and expenditures that need to be explained,” Herrera Beutler wrote.
Several of the project expenses questioned by Herrera Beutler have been brought up in reports by forensic accountant and CRC critic Tiffany Couch.
Herrera Beutler also asked why the Vancouver extension of light rail is expected to cost more per mile than light rail stretches in Portland and Seattle.
“Since I’ve been asked by some within the community to support this project in Congress, it is important to me that I have an understanding of its full scope,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “It is also important to me that every taxpayer dollar is used wisely, and I hope you can ease my mind in that regard.”
Friday the Clark County High Tech and Community Council sent a letter to Inslee saying it was “deeply concerned” about a lack of resolution on the CRC. The council — which represents leading technology businesses in Southwest Washington — said it’s time to commit to the project.
“Should this project fail to move forward, our regional economy will suffer significant negative consequences,” the letter read. “Such failure would limit access to workforce and marketplace opportunities and would reduce our regional quality of life.”
The Washington Legislature must commit state funding to the CRC this year for the controversial project to remain on track. House Democrats last month introduced a nearly $10 billion transportation funding package that would steer $450 million to the CRC. That’s the state share Washington is expected to come up with. Oregon lawmakers have already authorized the same amount.
After years of planning and thousands of meetings, the council said, “the time to move forward and identify and approve Washington’s share of funding is now.”
The letter was signed by council Chairman Robert Bernardi and representatives of Sharp Laboratories, SEH America, Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas, Kyocera Industrial Ceramics, nLight Corporation, WaferTech and Linear Technology Corp.
The group’s statement of support was also sent to other regional leaders — including Herrera Beutler.