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The Final Act for Portland’s $3 Billion CRC Highway Boondoggle?

10:00 AM PDT on April 15, 2013

The Columbia River Crossing proposed for suburban Portland is one of those highway boondoggle projects that's so enormous it develops its own gravitational field, and that makes it very hard to stop.

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Despite its momentum -- more than $100 million has already been spent on planning efforts -- this $3 billion-plus, five-mile bridge-and-megahighway project has drawn fire from environmental activists as well as political actors in the region of all stripes. The wide-ranging opposition and enormous cost have led many observers to doubt whether the bi-state project will actually get built.

Now "Engineer Scotty" at Portland Transport reports the CRC may have finally reached its final hour, thanks, ironically, to the region's light-rail-hating Republicans:

KOIN-TV is reporting that prospects for CRC funding being passed by the GOP-controlled Washington State Senate appear to be dimming, as two influential members of that body--Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, have indicated they likely will not support the project. King is a longstanding critic of the CRC, particularly of light rail.

The Senate's term ends in roughly three weeks. Many supporters have long claimed that local financing for the project must be approved by this summer, or else federal funding for the project will disappear, a claim which is disputed by project critics. Governor Inslee, for his part, remains committed to the project. Political leaders in Oregon, including both Governor Kitzhaber and Portland mayor Charlie Hales, continue to support the project; and all three insist that light rail is a non-negotiable component of the Columbia River Crossing. The project's proposed finance package depends heavily on $850 of New Starts funding from the FTA.

Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic reported last week that President Obama included money for this project in his 2014 transportation budget, but there's certainly no guarantee that funding will survive a bout with Congress.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Spacing Toronto reports that the region's "inner-ring" suburbs are at a critical juncture in their development and can become either walkable  or disconnected places. The Dirt riffs on how the future of transit can be more inclusive. And West North gives a primer on walking, biking, or taking transit to Reagan National Airport in DC.

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