Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle was restless on Sunday.
Even on a weekend, she kept busy with work, but one thing was nagging at her: whether the Oregon Legislature, on the last day of its session, would commit $1 billion to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge.
“I’ve been working on this with my colleagues for a long time, and I couldn’t sit at home and clean the oven,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “And I just drove down to Salem to be there to watch it happen.”
And it passed. The House approved it 45-6, with nine excused followed by the Senate vote of 19-5 with six absent.
“What a wonderful relief that we are going to be building a bridge,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “We’re certainly not done with it, but we are moving on to this next step.”
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.
“While we know nothing is final until signed by the governor, the legislative commitment … is an important step that creates momentum for other critical conversations moving forward,” replacement program Administrator Greg Johnson said in a statement.
Once Kotek signs the bill into law, two of the three primary funding sources for the program, or $3.45 billion of $6 billion, will officially be committed.
Both states have authorized tolling on the bridge, and both states have committed $1 billion to the project. The last $2.5 billion of the estimated $6 billion project is anticipated to come from the federal government in the form of three grants.
A financial commitment from both states is a near prerequisite for receiving federal money, officials say. The replacement program did not receive money from the Federal Highway Administration’s Bridge Investment Program after it applied last year.
“Having the nonfederal matching funds committed in both Oregon and Washington demonstrates the strong bistate support to complete these critical multimodal investments as the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program seeks to maximize competitive federal grant funding,” said Johnson.
The replacement program asked for $750 million last time. Since then, its cost estimate increased from between $3.2 billion and $4.8 billion to $6 billion in December. This time around, program officials anticipate receiving $1 billion from the grant; however, after seeing what comparable projects received from the Bridge Investment Program, they may ask for more.
Although one major milestone has been passed, the road to starting construction in late 2025 or early 2026 remains delicate. A permit from the Coast Guard is required, grants need to be awarded and a community benefits discussion needs to be had.
For some that were involved with the Columbia River Crossing, like state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, seeing both states’ financial commitment to the project is a giant step forward.
“We’ve come farther than ever before,” he said. “And 10 years ago, we didn’t have all these pieces in place that we have now.”
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