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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon House Approves Columbia River Crossing

Columbia River Crossing

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon House has signed off on what's shaping up to be the most expensive single public works project in the state's history. Lawmakers voted Monday to approve $450 million for a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River.

The new bridge would replace a pair of aging, congestion-prone spans between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. If all goes according to plan, Oregon's portion of the funding would be matched by a similar amount from state lawmakers in Olympia, along with federal cash and money from drivers in the form of tolls.

Oregon Democratic state representative Tobias Read urged his House colleagues to vote for the plan. "At a time when our infrastructure is deteriorating, at a time when unemployment is too high, at a time when interest rates are historically low, what better time to invest in our future."

Opponents say the project is too expensive and will take money from other highway projects in the state. Democratic Representative Lew Frederick, say the bridge is too expensive and will simply push congestion to a different section of the highway.

"There's a sense that decisions are being driven more by momentum than by clear definition of the problems that must be solved, and evidence that the design actually solves them."

Oregon lawmakers haven't designated any new revenue to pay for the bridge, pushing off any decision on taxes and fees into the future. The measure now heads to the Oregon Senate.

On the Web:

HB 2800-A: I-5 bridge replacement project - Oregon Legislature
Columbia River Crossing - official site