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Costly New Bridge Over Columbia River Spawns Ultimatum, Brinkmanship

OLYMPIA, Wash. - A costly new interstate highway bridge over the Columbia River is spurring brinkmanship in Olympia. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Democratic Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday to press state lawmakers to commit hundreds of millions dollars to the proposed new toll bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Washington.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee came out of a meeting between key state lawmakers and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation saying it's "now or never." Secretary Ray LaHood declined to repeat those exact words. But he made clear the federal government wants a prompt commitment of $460 million from the Washington Legislature for a jointly funded new bridge.

"This is the eleventh hour, fish or cut bait," LaHood said. "Make a decision."

Skeptical Republicans in control of the Washington Senate say they're unmoved by ultimatums. State Senator Don Benton of Vancouver insists the Columbia River Crossing needs to be redesigned.

"I mean if you look at what you get and what it costs, you have to say this is not a good investment of taxpayer money."

The controversy in the Washington Legislature contrasts with the quick approval earlier this year by Oregon lawmakers of their share of the $3.5 billion megaproject.

On the Web:

Columbia River Crossing - official site

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.