The Washington legislature is in overtime. Governor Inslee has made transportation funding a go-home vote. Columbia River Crossing officials are working on mitigation deals with major employers impacted by a new I-5 bridge. But the verdict remains in doubt whether the bridge project will survive.
Bridge backers staged a rally in Olympia, ran radio spots and conducted phone banks to generate grassroots support. Inslee arguably made his most serious plea for a 10-cent gas tax increase to pay, in part, for major projects, including the CRC. A broad coalition of business, labor and civic leaders have pleaded for support in one-on-one meetings with key Washington state senators who hold the key to any funding this session.
Despite all that, the future of CRC is still a roll of the dice.
The Oregon legislature acted earlier in its 2013 session to approve $450 million for the CRC. Now it is Washington's turn to approve an equal share or risk losing earmarked federal funds for the project, including extension of light rail from Portland to Vancouver.
While proponents have been busy, so have opponents. GOP Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents Southwest Washington, used her leverage as a member of the House Appropriations Committee to insert report language urging the Coast Guard to submit a report on the economic impact of the CRC on river users before issuing a permit for the project.
Citing pending mitigation deals with manufacturers Greenberry and Oregon Iron Works, Beutler said, "We deserve to know what will happen to those jobs once the deals are signed. If the CRC can't provide assurances that those businesses' jobs will stay in the region, then the Coast Guard should not permit the project."