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Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Oct. 3, 2023

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Federal transportation chief praises Columbia River Crossing


Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said Thursday they are optimistic about federal support for the Columbia River Crossing project following a meeting with three top federal transportation officials.

The governors met Sunday in Washington, D.C. with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the two heads of the Federal Highway and Federal Transit administrations to discuss the CRC.

On Wednesday, LaHood spoke at a meeting of 50 state transportation leaders, including Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

He praised the CRC.

“It was heartening to hear the secretary call the project a national model of replacing an aging bridge, adding light rail with dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, in an area where freight movement is critical,” Hammond said in a joint statement issued Thursday by Gregoire and Kitzhaber.

“The project is getting the kind of attention we need at the federal level to make it a reality,” Kitzhaber said.

The project was included in President Barack Obama’s budget after receiving a “medium-high” rating in the Federal Transit Administration’s Annual New Starts report.

CRC has applied for $850 million from the New Starts program. It also is one of a few projects eligible to compete for $400 million proposed for capital projects that are close to starting final design.

Mandy Putney, spokeswoman for the CRC, said the governors hadn’t anticipated that the heads of the highway and transit administrations would join them in the meeting with LaHood.

“We echo the optimism of the governors,” Putney said Thursday. “There’s growing federal support.”

Now expected to cost $3.6 billion, the overall Columbia River Crossing project would replace the existing twin three-lane drawbridges with a 10-lane river crossing, extend light rail to Clark College and improve five miles of freeway and interchanges on Interstate 5 in Oregon and Washington.

CRC project planners anticipate a three-way cost split between the two states, the federal government and local revenue generated by tolls.

Erik Robinson contributed to this article.