Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, a key supporter of an effort to revive the Columbia River Crossing, issued a statement Thursday saying he won’t support the bridge without the Washington Legislature’s support.
Starr’s statement could mark the death of the project.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has expressed strong opposition to a plan to an Oregon-led plan that relies on a complex set of agreements between Washington and Oregon and toll revenue to build a new $2.8 billion bridge connecting Portland and Vancouver.
Without Starr or Courtney, supporters will have a difficult time reviving the project, in spite of a vote last week advancing the CRC funding measure, House Bill 4113, to the legislative budget committee.
Last year Oregon lawmakers approved House Bill 2800, which allocated $450 million in bonds for the project predicated on Washington lawmakers kicking in the same amount. But strong opposition to the project’s light rail component led the Washington Senate to deny funding.
On Monday, the Washington Senate passed Senate Bill 6125, which would prevent Vancouver’s transit agency from transferring property to TriMet. Without that authority, the Oregon-led CRC couldn’t be built.
Starr said the bill’s passage made it clear the Washington Legislature won’t support the bridge.
“Based on the Washington legislature’s demonstrated unwillingness to engage in a bi-state process, as seen by the Washington Senate’s recent passage of Senate Bill 6125, it is clear that the co-operation we need to build this bridge is not going to materialize,” Starr said. “Because of that, I will not be supporting House Bill 4113A if it comes to the floor.”
Starr said he still supports the goal of building a new bridge and thinks it’s a critical for Oregon’s economy, but he says the only way to build one is to return to last year’s plan, which relied on a joint partnership between the two states.
“The only option going forward is if the Washington legislature were to change course and fund the project as envisioned under House Bill 2800A,” Starr said.