TriMet drives plan to fund new I-5 bridge replacement
TriMet is continuing to file the required paperwork with the federal government for its share of the Columbia River Crossing, even though the Oregon Legislature still needs to commit to a state-led version of the project.
The 2013 Legislature approved $450 million in state funds for the project, on the condition that Washington pledge an equal amount to the project by Sept. 30. The 2013 Washington Legislature failed to approve the funds, however.
Although Oregon’s commitment has now expired, project supporters are pushing Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislators to renew the funding for a scaled-back project built by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It would include a replacement Interstate 5 bridge between the two states with a light-rail line. All proposed freeway interchange work would be completed in Oregon, but not in Washington, reducing the overall cost of the project from $3.5 billion to $2.75 billion.
Supporters had hoped the Legislature would take up the issue during the recent special session that raised an additional $100 million for public schools, among other things. Legislators did not want to deal with the contentious issue, however, because the “grand bargain” they eventually approved was controversial enough.
Some supporters now are urging Kitzhaber to call another special session just to fund the CRC before the start of the 2014 Oregon Legislature. Kitzhaber has not yet said he will do so, however.
“We are having discussions with legislators about another special session, but no decision has been made yet,” says Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael.
Despite the legislative inaction, TriMet submitted paperwork to the Federal Transit Administration on Oct. 7 in support of its request for $850 million in New Starts funding for the light-rail line. The TriMet Board of Directors was informed of the filing at its Oct. 9 briefing.