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Kitzhaber: CRC now or never

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says the 2014 Oregon Legislature must either fund a state-led Columbia River Crossing project or spend its transportation money on something else.

And he wants a final decision by March 9.

The Legislature is scheduled to convene for a 35-day session on Feb. 3. In a Jan. 27 letter to State Senate President Peter Courtney and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, Kitzhaber said he strongly supports the $2.8 billion project.

"Replacing the bridge and improving the adjacent Oregon interchanges are critical infrastructure investments for the safety of our citizens and the future vitality of our state. Businesses from all over our state rely on this bridge to get their goods to and from market. Yet businesses that haul goods critical to our state’s economic well-being must rely on a bridge that is both seismically at risk and an obsolete design that leads to increased accidents and gridlock in the corridor. For Oregon, there is no viable alternative plan that is less complicated or less expensive," the letter said.

At the same time, Kitzhaber said the time has come to either proceed with the project or shelve it.

"Oregon must either decisively move the project to construction or refocus and reprioritize our resources. A project in limbo is the worst and most expensive outcome for Oregon, and continuing expenditures to sustain work without progress is a waste of money and resources," the letter said.

Although the 2013 Oregon Legislature approved $450 million as the state's share of the controversial project, it stalled after the Washington Legislature refused to do the same. Kitzhaber then ordered the Oregon Department of Transportation to study whether the state could do a scaled-back version of the project without Washington's funding.

Kitzhaber calls such a project possible in his letter, but says time is running out to make the decision.

"I have notified Governor Inslee, our federal and local partners, Oregon Transportation Commissioners and ODOT Director Garrett that without the appropriate action from the Oregon Legislature by March 9, 2014, and the appropriate action from the state of Washington by March 15, 2014, ODOT will close the project and begin archiving materials," the letter says.

The full letter can be read at www.oregon.gov/gov/docs/012714_Courtney_Kotek.pdf