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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Commission debates I-5 Bridge replacement

Transportation committee weighs, discusses options

By , Columbian Staff Writer

Local officials pleaded their case for re-opening talks about an Interstate 5 Bridge replacement during a Washington State Transportation Commission meeting Wednesday at the Port of Vancouver.

“The Columbia River Crossing discussion might be behind us, but the problem didn’t go away,” said Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, who represents Portland regional government on the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.

During one portion of the meeting, Craddick said the two states must rebuild trust with each other and the public after the failed attempt to construct an I-5 bridge replacement.

Rob Bernardi, president of Kokusai Semiconductor Equipment Corporation, said the governors of Washington and Oregon should officially task the two states’ transportation commissions with the responsibility of jointly developing a solution. He added that a bridge replacement is vital to Washington’s economic competitiveness.

John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, told the commissioners some of the needs he’s heard from existing businesses in the area, including ease of circulation around the community.

“The growth of the region is predicted to continue, and possibly exceed its pace,” he said. “Transportation needs to keep up.”

State Sen. Ann Rivers, a La Center Republican who helped kill the Columbia River Crossing project in 2013, was in the audience. The CRC would have replaced the I-5 Bridge, extended light rail into Vancouver and added a toll to the new bridge.

After all of the presenters spoke, she was invited to add to the discussion.

Rivers said she’d like to see an I-5 Bridge replacement that provides more benefits to Southwest Washington than the CRC did, including better improvements to commute times.

She also said perhaps other locations along the Columbia River should be considered for a new bridge.

Shiv Batra, a state transportation commissioner from King County, asked the group why their presentations only touched on surface transportation. He told the group they should look into water taxis, like in Holland, to help get people across the river.

“The Columbia River is an asset, not a divide,” he said.

Support for local projects

Local officials also discussed the need for more collaboration within Washington state. During one presentation, representatives from numerous small cities in Clark County spoke about the need for state agencies to work with cities to ensure projects get done.

“We need better help on the planning front on growth management,” said Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart. “We can’t do it as small jurisdictions. We don’t have the staff, and we can’t go out and hire people to do it.”

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Washougal City Administrator David Scott said that without state and federal help, small cities can’t complete bigger projects. He went over a few projects the city wants, including safety and access improvements to state Highway 14.

Battle Ground Public Works Director Scott Sawyer said his city is bisected by two state highways — 503 and 502 — which makes working with state officials especially important when it comes to laying out plans for the city.

Camas City Administrator Peter Capell showed how transportation improvements helped the city’s success over the last 20-plus years, and Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow told the commissioners about the need for a south entrance into his city.

The state commissioners will take a tour of Clark County today to get a closer look at transportation around the area.

Columbian Staff Writer