I-5 Bridge replacement project focus of new coalition effort

S.W. Washington lawmakers invite Oregon counterparts to discuss issue

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

Senators from Washington:

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia

Representatives from Washington:

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver

Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver

Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima

Senators from Oregon:

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield

Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland

Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin

Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose

Representatives from Oregon:

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles

Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario

Senators from Washington:

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia

Representatives from Washington:

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver

Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver

Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima

Senators from Oregon:

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield

Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland

Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin

Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose

Representatives from Oregon:

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles

Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario

Southwestern Washington lawmakers have invited their Oregon counterparts to form a new coalition to discuss an Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project.

The two Republican lawmakers leading the charge, Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, recently sent a letter, along with Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, to a handful of Oregon and Washington lawmakers, asking them to be part of the “bipartisan, Bi-State Bridge Coalition,” or BBC.

The letter invites lawmakers to a June 4 meeting, closed to the public and press, to “address transportation corridors between the states of Oregon and Washington and specific to the regions of Southwest Washington and the Portland metro area.”

“I think the most important thing is to have an open dialogue amongst us to see where we can find commonality,” said Rivers.

“Our goal is to shift the discussion from what we can’t do to what we can do,” she added.

The letter states the goal is to find consensus using a “well-thought-out matrix” and adds “more studies are not the answer.”

“The first meeting will be exploratory,” Pike said. “We’ll find out where everyone is at and gauge the temperature of the water and what they can and can’t support. … A journey of one thousand miles begins with one step. That’s what this first meeting is going to be.”

But several lawmakers say they feel they have already traveled thousands of miles.

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, who was a vocal proponent of the Columbia River Crossing and who has been invited to participate in the new coalition, said she will attend the meeting but not without reservations.

“I’m concerned about running head-on to another discussion about replacing the I-5 Bridge without ensuring we won’t find ourselves back here, 15 years from now,” she said. “My question will be, ‘What will be different?’ “

Oregon Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, who chairs the committee on business and transportation, said he’s “always willing to listen.”

But, he said, “unless they have some miraculous answer,” he doesn’t see new bridge discussions moving far.

“I’m not sure I want to go down that road and spend a lot of Oregon resources on projects that aren’t going to go anywhere,” Beyer said, adding that Oregon has already diverted the $450 million it was earmarking for the CRC to other projects.

Rivers and Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, were instrumental in the Senate Majority Coalition’s decision to withhold Washington’s $450 million funding for the Columbia River Crossing. After Washington failed to act, Oregon’s governor pushed ahead to consider an Oregon-only project. The “go-it-alone strategy” failed to garner enough votes in 2014 and the CRC project was declared dead.

Oregon’s House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, a key backer of the CRC, was also invited to attend the BBC.

“The speaker has a very busy schedule that prevents her attendance at this meeting,” said Jared Mason-Gere, her spokesman. “She was a strong supporter of bistate plans in the 2013 and 2014 sessions that would have replaced the outdated I-5 Bridge over the Columbia.”

Oregon Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, has been working closely with Pike and said he will encourage his fellow Oregon lawmakers to attend.

“We’re going to meet; it’s hard to say if it will go anywhere or not,” he said. “But at least, in my opinion, it’s being done the proper way.”