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Columbia River Crossing gains federal approval
01/10/2012

Federal transportation agencies recently gave formal approval for the Columbia River Crossing project plan, which allows final design and construction to proceed.  Issuance of the project’s record of decision by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration finalizes the environmental review process and formally identifies the federal agencies’ selected alternative for the CRC – a replacement Interstate 5 bridge with light rail. The record of decision allows the project to be eligible for future federal funding.
 
Governor John Kitzhaber praised the federal approval.  “Our federal partners have reconfirmed the purpose and need for the project and validated the process used to select a preferred alternative,” said Governor Kitzhaber.  “The Columbia River Crossing is essential to keep Oregon’s exports moving from all across Oregon to the world’s markets. The record of decision is the final step in a planning process that extends back to my first term as governor. It’s time to move forward for the region and our state and on to what’s needed to deliver a project we know will have far-reaching benefits.”

Public discussions related to the bottlenecks at the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River began in 1999 and have been nearly continuous since then. The CRC project formally entered the required decision-making process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 2005. Through that process, advisory groups, partner agencies and the public worked with CRC staff to generate and screen 70 project ideas, narrow them to 12 multimodal representative alternatives, before selecting five alternatives to study for the draft Environmental Impact Statement. Sponsor agencies selected one locally preferred alternative in 2008. A final EIS on the locally preferred alternative was released in September 2011.

Congestion on I-5
The record of decision identifies the environmental footprint and documents community and environmental commitments and mitigation. CRC staff will continue to work with sponsor agencies, stakeholders and the members of the public in the coming months to refine the local improvements during the final design and pre-construction phase. With the record of decision, ODOT and the Washington State Department of Transportation will begin discussing construction funding with the Oregon and Washington State legislatures.
 
The federal action capped a year in which the project made significant progress.
  • Governor Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire selected a bridge type, allowing the project to move forward with project planning and development.
  • The project’s cost estimate was reduced by $100 million due to risks being addressed.
  • A review by the Oregon Treasurer of the project’s financial plan developed recommendations that strengthened the plan.
  • The project received land use approval from the Metro council, and this action was validated by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.
 
After a successful 2011, The Oregonian started the new year off well for the project with a strong endorsement, calling the project “The bridge to more jobs.”

 
More information, including links to the signed record of decision, mitigation commitments and responses to comments on the final EIS is available at www.columbiarivercrossing.org.