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Friday, June 2, 2023
June 2, 2023

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Oregon drafts plans to allocate $1B for Interstate 5 Bridge replacement

Proposed package includes $300M from general funds

By , Columbian staff writer

Oregon lawmakers are working to come up with $1 billion to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, matching the commitment made by Washington last year.

Their draft plan: A bonding package comprising $300 million bonded against general funds and $700 million bonded against highway user tax revenue from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Of course, this is a draft and things could change, but Oregon Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro, the co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, believes the final bonding package will closely resemble the draft.

The $300 million would be available starting in early-to-mid 2025 and would cover costs through 2031. The $700 million would be available starting in 2031.

“We either have to add a new revenue source by 2031-32, or it’s going to change how long it takes us to do some of the work that we have in the ODOT portfolio,” McLain said.

Funding for the $700 million could come from a gas tax, vehicle miles traveled tax, vehicle registration fees and a fee on electric vehicles. The funding is scheduled for 2031 so Oregon has the opportunity to examine the implications of potentially adding a new revenue source, McLain said.

Construction won’t start until late 2025 at the earliest and could take 10 years to complete.

A financial commitment from both states is a near prerequisite for the program to receive the $2.7 billion in federal funds they seek — 41 percent of the project’s estimated cost of $6.5 billion.

McLain hopes the policy bill is completed by the end of April. If approved by the Joint Committee on Transportation, it will be referred to the Ways and Means Committee to be included in an upcoming budget bill.

McLain said that “it’s still on the table” when asked if there will be a stipulation about the bridge replacement program not exceeding a certain cost.

After the previous attempt to replace the bridge died in the Washington Legislature in 2013, elected officials in Washington knew they had to make the first move this time around.

Back then, the Columbia River Crossing project’s cost was estimated at $3.4 billion, with the states putting up $450 million each. Both amounts have more than doubled since.

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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.