Murray Provision Opens Door to Major Federal Investment in Columbia River Crossing

Jul 29 2009

As Chairman of Transportation Appropriations Committee, Murray includes language in yearly spending bill that will significantly boost chances for federal backing

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that she has included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2010 THUD Appropriations bill that will significantly enhance the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project’s ability to secure substantial federal funding. 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. The THUD Appropriations bill passed Senator Murray’s Subcommittee today and will be considered by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

“This provision puts the Columbia River Crossing in a strong position to compete for federal funding,” said Senator Murray. “At a time when transportation funding is in short supply, this is a huge boost for a project of major regional importance. It will ensure that instead of using outdated, conventional methods to rate transit projects, the FTA takes into account all of the benefits this multi-modal project brings to the region’s commuters and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.”

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.

“We can’t thank Senator Murray enough for her vision in crafting legislative language that will enable the I-5 Columbia River Crossing to compete more effectively for federal dollars,” said Paula Hammond, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “We believe the project embraces a modern way of thinking about improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure by integrating light rail and highway needs into the same solution. Our future transportation systems must facilitate both transit and highway solutions to move people and goods efficiently and safely through our communities. The I-5 Columbia River Crossing project will do that."