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Lawmakers Move To Revive Plan To Replace I-5 Bridge Over Columbia River

Colin Fogarty
Northwest News Network
The northbound span of the side-by-side Interstate 5 bridges across the Columbia River turned 100 years old this year.

In 2013 the Washington Legislature killed the idea of a bigger, safer bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. Three years later, Washington state lawmakers could take preliminary votes to revive plans to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.

Association of Washington Business Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis testified Monday a new bridge is "critical" to the whole region's economy.

"This project is sometimes characterized as a Southwest Washington problem,” Ennis said. “However, I can tell you that traffic congestion due to the Interstate 5 bridge negatively impacts freight mobility and the economy not only of Washington state, but the entire U.S. West Coast."

A trio of bipartisan bills in the Washington Legislature: HB 1222,  HB 2905 and SB 5806, would create some form of bi-state work group to begin planning a replacement I-5 bridge. Preliminary votes could be held as early as Tuesday afternoon.

A previous plan would have made the new span a toll bridge.The current legislation does not specify how a new bridge would be paid for or if it would have room for light rail. The politics of light rail helped kill the deal last time around.

The Oregon Legislature has so far not reciprocated Washington state's renewed interest in interstate bridge planning.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.