The SW Washington Regional Transportation Council board of directors amended a transportation plan Tuesday in order to allow the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project another $28 million in federal and state funds.

The amount includes $24.25 million in federal National Highway System funds and $3.83 million from the Washington State Department of Transportation, which oversees the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project (CRC) in a joint venture with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Artist's rendering of a light-rail station.

The CRC is a $10 billion* plan to replace the existing Interstate Bridge spans between Vancouver and Portland, extend light rail into downtown Vancouver, and reconstruct six major highway interchanges between SR 500 and Delta Park in Portland.

The mega project is part of the Regional Transportation Council’s 2012–2015 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan for Clark County, in which all regionally significant projects must be listed. WSDOT received the National Highway System funds and wanted to allocate them for the CRC.

However, because it represented an update to the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan, the action required Regional Transportation Council board approval. An advisory committee found the amendment consistent with state and federal requirements and recommended that the board adopt it.

Dean Lookingbill, executive director of the Regional Transportation Council, said the board’s action was essentially an administrative one and that no local funds were involved.

“It’s really a WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) programming decision,” said Lookingbill. “We have to – by who and what we are – carry that into the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement program. But the allocation decision for how the spend those NHS (National Highway System) funds is a WSDOT decision.”

CRC planners have spent seven years and $145 million thus far on planning and environmental studies, but have secured no major construction funding. The project received a record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Authority in December and is moving ahead with a pre-construction phase.

About $15.6 million of the new National Highway System and Washington State Department of Transportation funds will go for preliminary engineering while the remaining $12.5 million will pay for right of way acquisition within the bridge impact area.

* The well-documented cost to taxpayers, if the CRC stays on budget, is $10 billion. This was established by the Cortright Report (PDF) which used data from an independent review panel hired by the governors of Washington and Oregon. (View the panel’s final report.)

See our continuing coverage of the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail project.

Do you have information to share on the CRC? To respond anonymously call 260-816-1426. To allow your comments to be used on COUV.COM call 260-816-1429.