By Stevie Mathieu, April 10, 2013, The Columbian
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Olympia today, urging Washington 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 Washington Gov. Jay Inslee stood by his side. “We are prepared to put millions of dollars into this project because it’s important to America.”
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. LaHood said now it’s Washington’s turn.
“The one big defining issue is: Will the state of Washington step up with its commitment?” LaHood said.
Earlier in the day, LaHood met with Republican and Democratic groups in both the House and the Senate to talk specifically about the importance of the CRC. The House and the Senate did not include Washington’s share for the project in their transportation budget proposals, but House Democrats have put forward a separate transportation package that would raise revenue for new projects and give $450 million to the CRC.
Although several Republican legislators from Southwest Washington oppose the CRC and want to see it redesigned, Inslee said the bridge should not be a partisan issue. He also said redesigning the project will set the CRC back years.
“When it comes to bridges, we’re all in the transportation party,” Inslee said “We need to take this action together. … It is now or never for building a bridge across the Columbia River.”