U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Olympia on Wednesday, urging state lawmakers to approve Washington’s share of the Columbia River Crossing project.
“We need to have people with vision step up and say: ‘Those who have worked for 12 years on this project deserve to have this project move ahead, because they’ve done all the hard work,’ ” LaHood said during a press conference, as Gov. Jay Inslee stood by his side. “We are prepared to put millions of dollars into this project because it’s important to America.”
LaHood said the federal government is “ready to move this project along,” but it can’t do that if state legislators don’t approve as much as $450 million for the project this year. Oregon legislators have already approved spending Oregon’s share of $450 million on the CRC, but that spending agreement is contingent on whether Washington legislators do the same this year. The 2013 Washington Legislature is scheduled to conclude April 28.
“The one big defining issue is: Will the state of Washington step up with its commitment?” LaHood said. “This is the 11th hour. Fish or cut bait. Make a decision.”
Washington and Oregon are expected to jointly pay about a third of the CRC’s total cost. Plans call for federal funding sources and tolling to cover the rest. The $3.4 billion megaproject would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, extend light rail into Vancouver and rebuild five miles of freeway and freeway interchanges near the bridge.