GOVERNOR TED Kulongoski has been trying to re-fund the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) as part of last-minute negotiations to pass a car-focused transportation budget.
Two weeks ago the Mercury reported that funding for the CRC was in doubt after state legislators pulled $30 million for its ongoing design from Kulongoski's transportation plan ["Twelve Lanes of Hot Air," News, April 30]. The governor subsequently threatened to veto the plan if the House of Representatives tried to earmark specific projects: Earmarking would nix his ability to re-fund the CRC later using surplus money in an Oregon Department of Transportation slush fund, because all of that money would be pre-allocated.
But Kulongoski called a last-minute meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission last Thursday, May 7, calling on it to approve a 35-page list of transportation projects for state funding over the next five years, including the CRC. Sources are describing the move as Kulongoski's attempt to do an "end-run" around the legislature's resistance to the 12-lane bridge by creating a priority list of his own. Meanwhile, Kulongoski's office did not respond to the Mercury's inquiries.
Another controversial part of the transportation package is its lack of increased bike funding. Right now, all bikes and pedestrian projects (like sidewalks and bike lanes) get only one percent of the state's entire transportation budget. The original idea for the 2009 transportation bill upped that funding from one percent to 1.5 percent, which would have meant $3 million extra based on last year's numbers.
As legislators tore apart the transportation plan, the funding got sliced. Now as Salem winds down the session, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is scrambling to get more money for bikes back into the bill—but their chances are not looking good.
"Non-motorized transportation funding is something that the legislature doesn't have a history of funding. It's an uphill battle to get any kind of new funding," says BTA Executive Director Scott Bricker. "It's really been behind closed doors, behind-the-scenes negotiations."