Patty in the News

The Columbia River Crossing scored another $42 million in federal money in a proposed Senate transportation funding bill introduced Wednesday by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Although the money is a small fraction of the overall cost of a project with a price range up to $3.6 billion — to be split by the federal government, two states and local revenue generated by tolls — project supporters said Murray’s commitment generates fresh momentum at a crucial time.

“It’s time for the federal government to step up to the plate on this project,” Murray said in a prepared statement. “This investment is a first step, but a meaningful one, toward securing the federal resources we need to ensure local residents aren’t left to fund this on their own.”

The spending bill passed through a transportation subcommittee Wednesday and will move to the full appropriations committee for approval.

The earmark comes on top of $134 million in state and federal funding already set aside for planning.

As of the end of June, the project had consumed $97.8 million.

A spokeswoman for the bistate crossing office said the project has enough money to finalize an environmental impact statement and draw up a formal record of decision, two major milestones that are expected to occur by the end of this year.

Murray’s new earmark could advance the project into final design work, engineering and acquisition of rights of way.

Every federal dollar applied to the project ultimately lessens the burden on the two state legislatures and toll-paying motorists, she said. Crossing spokeswoman Carley Francis called the $42 million earmark a “very welcome surprise.”

Previously, the state of Washington had contributed $50 million, $40 million came from Oregon, and the federal government had contributed $44 million.

Planning for the long-envisioned project ramped up in 2005.

The proposal calls for replacing the twin three-lane drawbridges over the Columbia, extending light rail to downtown Vancouver and improving five miles of Interstate 5 on both sides of the river.

Murray, who chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, also announced a slew of other local earmarks Wednesday:

• $2 million for the Vancouver waterfront redevelopment project. The money will be used to help extend Grant and Esther streets under the BNSF Railway berm, connecting downtown to the former Boise Cascade site along the waterfront. Construction of the $40 million road project has been delayed by an impasse between the city and The Columbian over land acquisition.

• $1.5 million for C-Tran to continue an analysis of its proposal to build a bus rapid transit line carrying riders along dedicated lanes along Fourth Plain Boulevard between the Vancouver mall area and downtown Vancouver. The money comes on top of $2 million in federal funding previously received by C-Tran, said spokesman Scott Patterson. “This money will allow us to finish out the alternatives analysis,” he said. C-Tran estimates total construction cost of the line at $72 million. Although Patterson said planners anticipate the Federal Transit Administration will pick up 80 percent of the cost, the local share will require voters to approve a sales tax increase.

• $1 million to complete funding for the $6 million second phase of a reconstructed interchange between Ridgefield and Interstate 5. Ridgefield City Manager Justin Clary said the project will realign 65th Avenue and add roundabout intersections on Pioneer Street east and west of the freeway. “This should fully fund the project,” Clary said.

• $1 million for the city of Battle Ground to support the first phase of the reconstruction of Southeast Grace Avenue.

• $900,000 to support renovation of the Share Community Service Center in Vancouver. The renovation is intended to enable the nonprofit organization to increase service to the homeless, hungry and low-income populations.

- The Columbian