Six years ago, a proposal to replace the dilapidated and aging Interstate-5 Bridge died when lawmakers in Washington state refused to fund the project.
Now, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown have launched a new effort to replace the bridge, which connects Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River. The governors signed a Memorandum of Intent Nov. 18 and have pledged a combined $44 million to begin the process of replacing the bridge. A final report is due by Dec. 1, 2020.
The northbound portion of the bridge opened in 1917, while the southbound span opened in 1958. Both sides of the bridge have been deemed seismically unsafe for years.
I’m quite familiar with previous plans to replace the so-called Columbia River Crossing. When I was editor of the Portland Business Journal we covered the proposal in detail for years. The project, though, was beset by cost over-runs, negative publicity and accusations of financial mismanagement. Its death was almost certain by the time Washington lawmakers refused to fund the project.
“This is a new day,” Inslee says. “We are starting this process anew, moving forward with resources for a project office and a transparent, data-driven process that listens to the community’s needs.”
The agreement calls for funding a new office for the project that will gather community input, explore federal funding options and report back to both state legislatures with a plan of action.