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News / Business / Clark County Business

Oregon Legislature approves funding state’s share of replacement I-5 Bridge

Funding was a major hurdle in a bi-state effort to replace the aging span

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 25, 2023, 8:32pm

On the last day of its 2023 session, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill containing $1 billion in funding for the Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement Program, passing one of the last major hurdles for the program to break ground in late 2025 or early 2026.

The bill heads to Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek. In a statement last week, Kotek’s press secretary said the governor is pleased the Legislature was able to fund the project in time for federal grant opportunities.

The bill passed the House 45-6, with 9 excused and the Senate 19-5 with 6 absent.

“In 2022, the Washington State Legislature authorized $1 billion to fund their portion of that Interstate Bridge Replacement Program,” said Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, one of the legislators spearheading the funding effort in Oregon. “Now it’s Oregon’s turn.”

The next major steps before construction for the replacement program include applying for federal grants, publishing an environmental impact statement and receiving a permit from the Coast Guard.

House Bill 5005

Funding for the bridge was passed in House Bill 5005, a budget bill including funding for schools, emergency services facilities and housing programs. Funding for the bridge replacement comes in about $250 million in general obligation bonds in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029.

Although the bill funds Oregon’s portion of the bridge replacement entirely through general obligation bonds, not all legislators intend for that to be the primary source of funding in the future.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said at the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction meeting on Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Transportation will need a future transportation budget, allowing the Legislature to revisit the funding timeline and sources.

The original plan included $300 million in funds from general obligation bonds and $700 million in highway user tax revenue, however, the Legislature pivoted due to the Republican senators’ walkout and sick committee members.

Part of the reason Oregon’s portion of the bridge replacement is funded entirely on general obligation bonds is so the highway user fees can be spent on road and bridge maintenance, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, the co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said at the subcommittee meeting on Tuesday.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer