Senate in Washington waits on bridge funds

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Senate's transportation budget proposal advanced from committee Thursday after being bottled up over disagreement on funding for the Columbia River Crossing project.

The proposed budget advanced from the Senate Transportation Committee by a unanimous vote. It is expected to come before the full Senate by the end of the week. "I'm very happy with the compromise," said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, a vociferous opponent of the Interstate 5 bridge project over the Columbia River as currently conceived.

The deal to advance the budget plan hinged on withholding almost all of the roughly $82 million allocated toward the bridge project until the U.S. Coast Guard decides whether to issue a key permit. That decision is expected in September.

The Coast Guard in October expressed concerns that the proposed height of the bridge was too low. The planned height has since been raised from 95 feet to 116 feet.

The budget debate runs parallel to one over a separate transportation revenue package under consideration in the House. That proposal would put $450 million toward the bridge project — the money that supporters say is necessary to keep up to $1.2 billion in federal support on track.

Oregon lawmakers in March committed $450 million toward the project.

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