Replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River has been a top priority of communities in Washington and Oregon for years.
The bridge not only carries our neighbors to work and school, but it is also a vital artery for goods and services throughout the Pacific Northwest, the United States and the world. It is a crucial link between Oregon and Washington, but even more, it is a passageway that is critical to the economic success of the entire West Coast.
Simply put: This bridge is the backbone of our community and the West’s transportation system.
However, with one span of the crucial passageway now more than 100 years old, saying improvements need to be made is an understatement. In its current state, the bridge can no longer meet the needs of modern commerce or travel, is at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake and poses safety dangers to those not commuting by car.
For more than a decade, we have advocated for and worked toward a replacement as we see this imperative infrastructure age. While action toward a solution has long been overdue, now more than ever is the time to modernize this route with crucial safety, transportation and climate improvements, including seismic retrofits and traffic safety measures for all commuters.
Last year, we secured $1 billion for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program through the Move Ahead Washington package, but that will only get us so far.
Our work is nothing without the collaboration, advocacy and joint action of our colleagues in Oregon.
At the start of the year, Oregon lawmakers convened in Salem to begin the process of securing their funding contribution. It was not done without challenges, but their months of hard-fought and dedicated negotiations play a requisite role in advancing this project.
Last week, Gov. Tina Kotek signed Oregon House Bill 5005, marking a new chapter in our combined and long-sought efforts.
Oregon lawmakers’ decision to contribute $1 billion to the bridge replacement will usher us into the final steps of making our goals reality.
With our combined financial commitments, we are showing the federal government just how serious we are about getting this project through to completion. We are now eligible for billions in federal infrastructure funds, which are not only critical to getting this bridge replaced but will return to our community in the long run. These funds will provide a direct injection into both Washington’s and Oregon’s local economies.
Getting to this point was no easy feat. Despite repeated opposition from our counterparts on the right and attempts to dial back this project when speed bumps arose, we were able to transform our long-standing vision into a tangible reality.
So, thank you, Oregon, for your long commitment to this goal.
Your commitment will enable us to move forward with the construction of a state-of-art-bridge, which will serve our community, our businesses and our families for generations.
This achievement stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and serves as a dynamic example for other regions facing similar infrastructure challenges.
We are forever grateful for your partnership and teamwork. Now, let’s get this finished.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, represents the 49th Legislative District. Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, represents the 21st Legislative District.