The fight over the Columbia River Crossing is taking on partisan overtones at the 2014 Oregon Legislature. Although a majority of legislators from both parties supported the project last year, the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development split along partisan lines when it advanced an Oregon-led version of the project last week.

If Republicans in Salem vote as a block against the project, it would likely fail because a handful of Democrats have always opposed the project. Several represent parts of Portland, where the opposition from environmentalists and neighborhood activists in North and Northeast Portland has been strongest.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is pushing a scaled back, $2.8 billion version of the project because the Washington Legislature has refused to commit its $450 million to the replacement Interstate 5 bridge and freeway improvement project. Oregon officials told the committee an Oregon-led project is legally and financially possible if the state can secure a number of intergovernmental agreements with Washington. The Republican members were skeptical, however.

Novick shoveling out from error on snow plow costs

Commissioner Steve Novick learned quite a lot during the big winter storm — including not to ask city staff for budget estimates when they are tired and distracted.

Novick, who is in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, repeatedly was asked by reporters why the city only plows major arterials and not neighborhood streets during such storms. He said because the city does not have enough equipment and personnel. When asked how much more it would cost to service neighborhood streets, Novick said $300 million, a figure he got from PBOT staff.

When pressed about the figure, Novick quickly revised the figure down to $70 million. He apologized profusely for the earlier estimate, saying it was prepared on the fly by PBOT staff who were still trying to keep traffic moving. Regardless of the mistake, it is the same reason previous transportation commissioners, including former Mayor Sam Adams when he was in charge of PBOT, have given during earlier storms that shut down much of the city.

Why are no Dems trying to Uncover Oregon?

The breakdown of the Cover Oregon website is certainly a serious issue, considering it cost $48 million in federal funds to build. But is it a partisan matter?

Apparently so. Only Republicans are calling for a federal investigation into the website’s problems. Democrats are saying it is something best investigated by Oregon agencies, which are headed by Democrats.

The split was especially apparent last week when Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson, who is running for the GOP nomination for the governor’s race, appeared at a news conference with Republican Rep. Greg Walden to call on the U.S. General Accounting Office to investigate the problems with the federally funded website.

The problems are undeniable. A Feb. 13 New York Times story said Cover Oregon is tied for the third-worst health exchange website in the country. So why aren’t any Democrats calling for a federal — or even independent — investigation?

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