Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 19th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
House Joint Memorial 22, a bill in the Oregon legislature that some feared would have sent a strong message to the federal government in support of the controversial Columbia River Crossing project, made it out of committee yesterday; but the version that was voted on is much different than the original.
As we reported last month, the original version of HJM 22 urged the federal government to fund the controversial project. The bill was far from objective and, in addition to urging federal investment, it characterized the project as a "comprehensive solution" that was needed to "expand capacity" of I-5 between Oregon and Washington.
The bill raised eyebrows from transportation advocates and from lawmakers who are wary of the project's merits and its price tag — which some estimate could be as high as $10 billion. As HJM 22 worked its way through the legislature, 20 state legislators (8 Republicans, 12 Democrats) signed onto a letter calling for a pause on the CRC project.
During a work session of the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee held yesterday, lawmakers voted 6-2 to move the amended version of HJM 22 (download PDF here) onto the House Revenue Committee.
The amended version of HJM 22 (HJM 22-5) reads less like a press release by CRC project staff, and instead, makes it clear that the Oregon legislature cares about making improvements to the existing bridge and the highways and interchanges in the general vicinity of the Columbia River.
To help clarify what I mean, here are the final paragraphs of the two bills (emphasis mine):
"The Seventy-sixth Legislative Assembly respectfully urges the federal government of the United States of America to partner with the states of Oregon and Washington and invest federal highway and transit funding in the Columbia River Crossing Project in recognition of the national benefits of the project."
"The Seventy-sixth Legislative Assembly respectfully urges the federal government of the United States of America to join with the States of Oregon and Washington to invest federal highway and transit funding in the building, rebuilding and modernization of the bridges, interchanges and interstate highway within the Columbia Crossing area, in recognition of the national benefits inherent in the area."
Representative Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), co-Chair of the Committee, says the bill was moved "without recommendation" and that "discussions will continue" in the House Revenue Committee. He wrote via email to BikePortland that,
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"It is our intention to spend significant time in our remaining committee meetings on discussions of the space between Portland and Vancouver. If we come to some conclusions we may want to pass the Memorial on from the Revenue Committee."