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Oregon action on CRC unlikely this year

November 22, 2013 J

It’s been almost a month since Oregon leaders formed a special legislative committee on the Columbia River Crossing, at which time a top state official declared immediate action was necessary to keep the project on track.

Yet here’s how state Sen. Chuck Thomsen, a member of that committee, responds when asked about the latest on the CRC.

“I haven’t heard a word,” said Thomsen, a Republican from Hood River. “I have people ask me this all the time.”

The committee hasn’t scheduled a single hearing. As lawmakers return to Salem for informal meetings today, legislative action on the revised Interstate 5 Bridge replacement appears increasingly unlikely this year. If it happens at all, many believe it will wait until the next regular legislative session in February.

The delay means the CRC’s schedule may be out the window, again. An Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman acknowledged Tuesday that planners are now looking at a 2015 construction date, pushed back from 2014.

Oregon began considering a scaled-back, $2.7 billion version of the project after Washington largely pulled out of the project in July. Such a plan would still replace the I-5 Bridge and send light rail into Vancouver while relying heavily on tolls.

The project is facing even more uncertainties as leaders scramble to salvage the beleaguered megaproject. Among the biggest: Revelations that Oregon doesn’t have full authority to enforce tolls on Washington drivers, who make up the majority of existing traffic on the bridge. ODOT Director Matthew Garrett wrote in a letter to state Treasurer Ted Wheeler this month that some kind of arrangement between the two states is needed for the plan to work — echoing a stance made clear by Wheeler two months earlier.

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