VANCOUVER, Wash. The Columbia River Crossing project got one step closer to reality after it gained federal approval of the plan this week.

But a new bridge and interchange system to connect Oregon and Washington has many more hurdles to go.

The Record of Decision from the Federal Government serves as approval of the final environmental impact statement, based on the deck-truss design that is the preferred option.

It allows us to say, hey we know we have the project we know we re going to build . And now we can go and update our cost estimates, we can make sure the design is to a greater level of detail, we can continue talking with the public, continue talking with all of our elected officials -- so it really is a milestone for us, said CRC spokesperson Anne Pressentin.

The approval does not come with any money attached. But CRC leaders say it paves the way to compete for federal dollars, and convince state legislatures in two states to pay the huge expense of the project.

We will be having conversations with the Federal government and state legislatures on funding and how we construct the project, said Pressentin.

The estimated cost of the Columbia River Crossing project is between $3 billion and $4 billion.

CRC leaders are working to get the federal government and state governments to pay about one-third of the cost each.

Another third would be paid for with future toll revenue. If funding comes through, the first phases of the project would begin construction in late 2013, according to CRC planners.

The first span would have a planned opening in 2018, with the entire project completed by 2020.

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