Governor Ted Kulongoski appears to have stepped up his effort to get funding for a 12-lane Columbia River Crossing this morning by asking the state's transportation commission to effectively sign off on the project as part of a longer list of other projects at a hastily convened meeting.
Two weeks ago the Mercury reported that funding for the Columbia River Crossing was developing into a contentious issue at the state level because state representatives had pulled $30million in funding for the ongoing design of the bridge from Kulongoski's proposed transportation budget. Kulongoski called a press conference the following morning touting job creation as a key reason to move forward on the CRC.
This morning, Kulongoski has asked the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) to "develop a list of strategic investments in the state highway system for the next few years." That list runs to 35 pages but includes two significant items: $100million in funding for the repair of the Sellwood Bridge on page two, and the $30million in funding for the ongoing design of the Columbia River Crossing that the state transportation committee had tried to pull from the Governor's transportation package. You can read the meeting agenda here.
Last week, Kulongoski threatened to veto the legislature's transportation bill if it tried to "earmark" Oregon Department of Transportation dollars for specific projects, effectively excluding his ability to re-include the $30million for the CRC. But this morning's meeting of the OTC appears to be a different kind of "earmarking": The kind the Governor likes!
The governor's spokesperson Anna Richter Taylor is yet to return a call for comment. Stay tuned for updates.