Marie Gluesenkamp Perez supports replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. Joe Kent wants a third bridge to be built west of I-5 and the existing bridge to be retrofitted to withstand earthquakes.
Few topics are more charged than the 3rd Congressional District race between Democrat Perez and Republican Kent or the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project.
The topics are not unrelated. The winning candidate will be the major proponent on Capitol Hill for the estimated $3.2 billion to $4.8 billion bridge project.
The Columbian asked Kent and Perez for their views on replacing the bridge, whether light rail should be included, and if tolls should help pay for its construction cost.
Kent opposes replacing the current bridge. He says it should be retrofitted and a third bridge and ring road should be built to the west to serve traffic going to Oregon suburbs such as Beaverton, Tigard and Hillsboro.
Perez supports replacing the bridge.
“(W)e need to stop kicking the can down the road and move forward with this transportation project that is hugely important to our economic future in Southwest Washington,” she said in a statement to The Columbian.
Perez argues that there is more support for light rail now than in the past. Kent opposes light rail on the grounds that in past votes, Clark County shot down aspects of light rail transit.
“Addressing congestion and increasing transportation choices is not just a transportation issue, it’s part of improving our carbon footprint and reducing our emissions,” Perez said.
“The people of Clark County have rejected light rail and tolling multiple times and it should not be included in any Columbia River crossing project,” Kent said in a statement to The Columbian.
Perez said tolls are an inevitable part of a transportation project of this size. She said charging the users of the bridge is better than paying for its construction with a general tax increase.
“If we do secure additional federal dollars for the replacement, that would reduce the amount we’d need to raise from tolling, and therefore lower the toll rates for bridge users. Achieving that reduction will be my goal,” said Perez.
Kent does not support tolling to fund a replacement I-5 bridge.
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