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Later special session eyed for CRC

Supporters of the Columbia River Crossing are considering convening a special session of the Oregon Legislature in a few weeks just to consider moving forward with the controversial project.

"The Legislature could come back to Salem to consider doing this one big project later this year," says Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association, which supports the project.

Deckert spent Monday at the special session called by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to consider a package of bills to boost school revenue. The session could also consider continuing the Columbia River Crossing as an Oregon-led project. The Washington Legislature failed to fund its share earlier this year, raising questions about the viability of the project.

But according to Deckert, project supporters have decided the Legislature does not need to make a decision at the special session that convened Monday. Instead, Deckert says, the Legislature can reconvene in a few weeks in a special session devoted exclusively to the CRC.

Doing so would allow legislators to focus on the school finance package. And it would allow more time to research the legal, financial and technical issues of having Oregon build a scaled-down version of the CRC. It is estimated to cost $2.75 billion instead of $3.5 billion.

"Those are the discussions that are under way now," Deckert says.

Supporters originally thought the Legislature needed to reaffirm the state's $450 million commitment to the project by Monday, Sept. 30. They now believe the federal government will honor a later re-commitment.