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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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Gov. Inslee open to transportation package without CRC

The Columbian

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that Washington state might pursue a broad transportation package without funding for a new Columbia River bridge that some Republicans had opposed.

Inslee said he wants lawmakers from both parties to come together over the coming weeks to develop a plan that would pay for projects around the state. He said he is prepared to call lawmakers back from a special gathering in November to get the package swiftly approved.

Republicans in the state Senate opposed efforts earlier this year to pass a proposed transportation package, with some particularly expressing concern about money going to a Columbia River Crossing plan that included a light-rail line.

Inslee said the state was reviewing options on how to pay for the Columbia River bridge and said there are discussions about removing it from the larger transportation package.

“I don’t think that should be a blockage at all,” Inslee said.

In the proposal earlier this year, Democrats in the House approved a plan that would increase the gas tax by 10 1/2 cents. A Republican-dominated coalition in the Senate rejected efforts to bring up the package for a vote, saying they want to see policy reforms first and expressing concern about the Columbia River proposal.

The Columbia River project would replace several miles of Interstate 5, including the bridge between Oregon and Washington, and it would extend Portland’s light-rail system into Vancouver, Wash. Proponents have been trying to persuade Oregon lawmakers to approve a scaled-back plan that would stop at Highway 14, at the bridge’s northern end.

The existing bridge has a section that lifts to allow taller river traffic to pass underneath. The proposed replacement would be too low for three manufacturers upstream to transport some of their products, leading the states to approve tens of millions of dollars in mitigation payments to those companies.