Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has kicked his state’s review of an Oregon-led Columbia River Crossing into high gear, telling legislative leaders in a letter they’ll have answers on its feasibility by Sept. 15.
That turnaround would allow for “potential legislative action” by Sept. 30, when Oregon’s financial commitment to the project expires, according to the governor. But it’s unclear whether lawmakers will actually reconvene in an attempt to salvage at least some of the project, declared dead two months ago.
At the same time, Kitzhaber acknowledged the uphill climb he and other backers face in their last-ditch effort to resurrect the beleaguered Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project.
Kitzhaber says he’s asking for an updated property acquisition schedule, a review of intergovernmental partnerships required to move the project forward, and a review of financing for the phased plan on the table, among other evaluations.
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The letter comes less than two weeks after Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler raised pointed questions of his own in a letter sent to Patricia McCaig, Kitzhaber’s adviser on the project.
The project office began shutting down in July, days after Washington lawmakers adjourned without authorizing any project funding.
Backers have since picked up a phased version of the same project — including light rail and tolls — that would essentially lop off any freeway work north of Highway 14. Backers say the pared-down plan could be built for $2.75 billion, with Oregon taking the lead on financing.
The Washington Department of Transportation has pulled nearly all its workers off the project. The remaining project staff continue to seek a crucial bridge permit from the U.S. Coast Guard.