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COLUMBIA RIVER CROSSING: Murray Provision that Boosts Project's Chances for Federal Funding Passes Senate

Sep 17 2009

As Chairman of Transportation Appropriations Committee, Murray helps pass language in yearly spending bill that opens door to federal funding

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), announced that a critical provision she included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation Appropriations bill that will significantly enhance the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project’s ability to secure substantial federal funding has passed the United States Senate. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 73-25.

“This is a big step toward putting the Columbia River Crossing project in a good position to compete for federal funding,” said Senator Murray. “This provision will update the process the FTA uses to evaluate the benefits of innovative projects like the Columbia River Crossing. It will ensure that instead of using outdated, conventional methods to rate transit projects, the FTA takes into account all of the benefits this multi-modal project brings to the region’s commuters and economy.”

Senator Murray’s provision updates the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) evaluation process for multimodal projects like the CRC. The change would result in the substantial non-federal contributions to the CRC being considered part of the project’s application for a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) under the FTA’s New Starts program. The changes are needed to ensure that FTA evaluates the project in a fair and equitable way.

Currently, the FTA is considering the CRC project as separate highway and transit projects. This has meant that the majority of non-federal contributions for the project will not be considered, and that the rating for the overall project will be negatively impacted. The language Senator Murray has included in the bill that was passed through her Subcommittee today, will require the FTA to rate the CRC -and similar multimodal - projects as a single project. This will mean that the non-federal contributions to the project will be considered in FTA’s rating of the CRC’s finance plan under the New Starts program - significantly strengthening the CRC project’s ability to compete for a FFGA. The language will also encourage communities to consider more comprehensive, multi-modal projects like CRC by ensuring FTA is using a method to rate projects that accounts for their unique transportation and environmental benefits.

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill, H.R. 3288, will now be sent to conference committee where any differences with the House version of the bill will be reconciled. It will then be sent to President Obama for his signature.