Lawmakers revive talk of I-5 Columbia River bridge

Lawmakers revive talk of I-5 Columbia River bridge
The current I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Lawmakers from Washington and Oregon are reviving plans for a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland.

A dozen lawmakers from both states and both parties met behind closed doors Wednesday in Vancouver, The Columbian reported.

The meeting was a post-mortem on the failed Columbia River Crossing project and the start of rebuilding relationships, said Rep. Liz Pike of Camas, Washington, one of the lawmakers leading the so-called Bi-State Bridge Coalition.

The lawmakers talked about the governors forming a commission that would guide a new project to replace the aging span on the heavily traveled interstate.

Nearly $200 million was spent on plans for the $2.9 billion Columbia River Crossing, including light rail. The project had been a joint effort of Oregon and Washington before Washington state lawmakers balked at authorizing money in 2013. Oregon attempted to continue the project on its own, but in March, the Oregon Legislature declined to provide funding.

There is broad agreement that the two states need to find a way to improve freight mobility and ease congestion, said Oregon Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles who also is organizing Bi-State Bridge Coalition meetings.

The failure before was not coming together to find a solution acceptable to both states, he said.

"We won't make that mistake again," Huffman said in a statement.

Oregon Rep. Julie Parrish of West Linn opposed the Oregon-only project.

"If we can get to yes, we have to lift together this time," she said after the meeting.

Sen. Lee Beyer, who chairs the Oregon Senate Committee on Business and Transportation, has said his state suffers from bridge fatigue. Although he attended Wednesday's meeting, he appeared skeptical.

"I think people will put some emotional energy into it," Beyer said. "Realistically, I think we'll find out there really isn't a path forward at this time."
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Information from: The Columbian