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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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House lawmakers revive effort to rekindle I-5 Bridge replacement talks

By , Columbian Political Writer

Southwest Washington lawmakers are hoping to send a message to their counterparts in Oregon that they’re ready to talk about replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge.

“We’re hearing the state of Oregon won’t step up until they get a signal from us,” Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, told members of the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Lawmakers are hoping the signal is House Bill 2414, which would carve out $100,000 to form a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of legislators from both sides of the river to revive discussions of a crossing over the Columbia River.

“As you all are aware, there has been a long, complicated process that resulted in our Legislature not participating in going forward with a project called the Columbia River Crossing, the CRC,” Wylie said. “That is history, but we still need to do something about that crossing.”

Lawmakers floated a similar measure last legislative session. It sailed out of the House only to fail in the Senate.

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing project, is using the same resolve she reserved for killing the project to resurrect discussions about a new Interstate 5 bridge.

“Every day we don’t begin talking about this is another day longer that our folks have to sit in traffic and our businesses can’t move their freight in a timely manner,” Pike said.

The number of Southwest Washington representatives who have signed on as co-sponsors of the measure is a symbol of unity that has been rare in previous sessions, she said. Republican Reps. Paul Harris of Vancouver, Brandon Vick of Felida, and Lynda Wilson of Vancouver signed on to support the measure, and Democrat Rep. Jim Moeller of Vancouver added his name to the list, along with Wylie.

But the harmony could end in the House.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said she’s not giving the effort any attention until it’s warranted.

“Sen. (Annette) Cleveland, D-Vancouver, and I were not privileged to any of the activities, so we’ll just let the House do what it’s going to do,” Rivers said.

Rivers mentioned a letter from Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, last year, in which Kotek reminded Pike of a decade’s worth of squandered efforts and said Oregon had no interest in a bistate bridge coalition at this time.

Kotek’s spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that nothing had changed since the letter was sent in May of last year.

“The letter we got from Rep. Kotek last spring was clear and I think there is some desire to mend those fences before we go forward,” Rivers said.

Washington lawmakers declined to vote in favor of paying for their share of the Columbia River Crossing, which ultimately led to the project’s demise.

Pike said she did have support from lawmakers across the river but declined to say who.

Columbian Political Writer