CRC Poised to Swallow State Transportation Budget?

One of the ‘promises’ of the Columbia River Crossing project is that it would not cannibalize funding for other projects in the region. The idea was that this was a “project of national significance” and Congress would provide dedicated funding for the Federal component above and beyond our usual allocation.

But as we noted when analyzing the State Treasurer’s presentation to the Governor on the CRC finance plan, there was an allusion to using “GARVEE” bonds, to be repaid from future Federal funds.

Now our friend and correspondent Joe Cortright has been closely reading the draft of the Final Environmental Impact Statement and came across this section:

Section 4.3.1 of the Finance Plan, (page 4-7). It lists

“Federal Revenue and Financing Options”

> 40 Federal Formula Funds
>
> 41 ODOT, WSDOT, C-TRAN, TriMet, Portland’s Metro Regional Government
> 42 (Metro), and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council
> 43 (RTC) receive transportation funding from a variety of federal formula grant
> 44 programs. In an urban area, the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs)
> 45 program these funds to specific eligible uses. In the Portland-Vancouver region,
> 46 this is accomplished through Metro’s or RTC’s Metropolitan Transportation
> 47 Improvement Program (MTIP) processes. State and federal funds are also
> 48 programmed in ODOT’s and WSDOT’s State Transportation Improvement
> 49 Programs (STIPs). While federal formula funds potentially could be used
> 50 for the CRC project, many of these funds are currently programmed for
> 51 other uses, and the finance plan for the CRC project does not anticipate
> 52 reprogramming of these funds.

While this makes it sound like CRC won’t get formula funds, a careful reading shows that it says almost the opposite:

“many funds are currently programmed” and CRC “does not anticipate reprogramming these funds.”

What this means is that they won’t seek to reprogram currently programmed funds, but they could easily ask for for future and and as yet unprogrammed formula funding.

So in short, if your program has already got a commitment for Federal funds, fine. Otherwise all of the remaining portion of Oregon’s share of Federal gas tax revenue could be hoovered up by the CRC.

2 Comments

2 Responses to CRC Poised to Swallow State Transportation Budget?

  1. Gerik
    August 22, 2011 at 8:01 am Link

    My hope is this funding scheme would go over like a lead balloon at JPACT. If CRC plans to spend all of our flexible federal money on this giant highway project we might finally see some real opposition from local leaders.

  2. Ron Swaren
    August 22, 2011 at 11:12 am Link

    I wonder if the the Garvee fund strategy would be politically acceptable in DC. Since they ask for a twelve year long claim, that would tend to preclude emergency needs that could come up in other regions of the US. I suppose there is an established formula for how those are determined and allocated. Still it does raise questions of competition from other states. All 57 of them.

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