U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, issued a statement Tuesday reiterating that the Columbia River Crossing project must meet all of its funding and permitting requirements before it is eligible for federal dollars.
Herrera Beutler recently helped write a 2014 transportation spending bill in the U.S. House. The legislation makes no changes to Federal Transit Administration rules.
Although CRC planners still have time to meet FTA requirements, Herrera Beutler emphasized in her statement that they hadn’t yet done so. The CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River, extend a light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver and rebuild nearby freeway interchanges.
FTA rules require that local funding be in place before a project is eligible for a federal New Starts grant. For the CRC, that means lining up money from both states, and securing operations funding for light rail in Vancouver. That hasn’t happened yet. Project leaders are hoping to have state and local money committed this year so it can apply for an $850 million grant this fall. If approved, the grant would be paid in smaller chunks over several years, paying for the construction of light rail.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other top officials have said the CRC is well-positioned for that money should the other pieces of the finance plan fall into place. But the FTA hasn’t guaranteed anything to the CRC, and won’t accept its grant application until they do. Herrera Beutler’s statement appears to reiterate that requirement.
"The existing law is clear," Herrera Beutler said Tuesday in her statement. "In order to obtain a transit grant, project sponsors need to have funding in place to pay for operation and maintenance of light rail."
The CRC also must secure crucial permits from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies as it moves toward construction. Planners say they hope to start construction in late 2014, a schedule one oversight group has called "highly optimistic."
Herrera Beutler is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The subcommittee is expected to approve its 2014 transportation spending bill this week. After that, the bill would require a vote by the entire House of Representatives and then head to the Senate for approval.
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