The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (think ODOT and it’s 49 brethren) is holding its annual meeting here in Portland. It started a couple of days ago.
Part of the meeting is to determine a legislative agenda, and preliminary work for this was done at a subcommittee meeting in Minneapolis last month. Reading through the notes from some of the working groups, I was struck by one recommendation:
2. Nationally Significant Needs – Do not fund projects of national significance through congressional earmarks or nationally allocated funds. Instead increase apportioned funds to states, so that nationally significant needs in a state or in multi-state areas are addressed through cooperative efforts using state apportioned federal funds matched by state funds, and/or other locally provided funds.
So why is that important? Because the strategy for funding the Columbia River Crossing is to pitch it to Congress as a national priority. It’s a key bottleneck on the major west coast trade corridor. So we would ask for funds above and beyond our normal allocation.
What the AASHTO recommendation would say is, no, the crossing is an Oregon/Washington problem, and they need to prioritize it from their funds (maybe getting some help from California and Idaho).
Seems like that kind of funding model would cast the project in a whole new light.
Now I have no idea what kind of clout AASHTO has with Congress, but somehow I’m betting that ODOT and WashDOT might not be voting for this particular policy plank.