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Friday, April 12, 2013

In Washington State, Tough Questions on the CRC

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Local critics of the embattled Columbia River Crossing—which breezily received Oregon's stamp of approval in Salem earlier this year—will be heartened by questions coming out of Olympia.

Nowhere have those been more clear than in a video, mistakenly posted online, of Washington lawmakers in closed session putting the screws to US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who'd popped in this week to lobby for the project.

"Of course we want a new bridge," State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, told LaHood., "but we want a bridge that will work for the region."

He mentioned well-known Portland slow spots like the Terwilliger Curves an Rose Quarter which he said could see worse traffic as a result of the project.

Staffers for Washington's Republican majority posted the video before realizing the meeting wasn't public. That didn't stop Democratic employees from recording the video off of a computer screen and posting their own version online. Washington Democrats say the video shows rude treatment. Benton hailed the meeting as a victory.

Washington is in the midst of considering whether to pony up $450 million for the project, equivalent to the sum Gov. John Kitzhaber formally approved last month. At stake is up to $1.2 billion in federal money for the bridge, which could go elsewhere if lawmakers can't agree. The entire project is expected to cost roughly $3.4 billion. A good chunk of that money is based on controversial tolling projections.

The video of Wednesday's meeting is a bit tough to see and hear, but interesting.

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