<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Sunday,  June 16 , 2024

Linkedin Pinterest
News / Politics / Clark County Politics

3rd District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez leads effort to fully fund Bridge Investment Program

Fund would include money for Interstate Bridge Replacement Program

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 9, 2024, 6:06am
3 Photos
The Interstate 5 Bridge rises above the Columbia River as Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, left, and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle talk Jan. 13, 2023, during a tour of key infrastructure projects in Perez&rsquo;s district.
The Interstate 5 Bridge rises above the Columbia River as Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, left, and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle talk Jan. 13, 2023, during a tour of key infrastructure projects in Perez’s district. (Taylor Balkom/ The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, is calling for federal spending on a program that would include funds for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program.

Seventeen members of Congress — led by Perez and Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore. — sent a letter April 29 to the House Committee on Appropriations asking for full funding of the Federal Highway Administration’s Bridge Investment Program, which was established by the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the committee to provide $675 million for the program.

The committee would add the funds to its 2025 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.

“Southwest Washington knows the impact of relying on a structurally deficient bridge all too well,” Perez said in a news release. “Commuters are stuck in endless traffic, and the narrow lanes are a safety hazard. Fully funding this program will help ensure we can continue supporting projects like the I-5 Bridge replacement and strengthening our country’s transportation infrastructure as a whole.”

Perez and Chavez-DeRemer penned a similar letter to the U.S. House panel last year requesting the maximum amount of funding for the program. They were joined by 30 lawmakers.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program asked for $750 million from the Bridge Investment Program in 2022 but did not receive it because the replacement program was in its early stages.

The program reapplied in 2023 asking for $1.2 billion.

Replacement program officials increased the request by nearly $500 million because the cost estimate for the new I-5 Bridge increased from about $4 billion to $6 billion, and because comparable projects received a similar amount during the first round of funding.

More investment needed

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that nearly 43,000 bridges are in poor condition, twice as many as there were nine years ago. Additionally, every single congressional district in the country is home to structurally deficient bridges, according to the letter.

The federal government pours billions of dollars into major bridge projects each year. The 2021 Investments and Jobs Act allocated $12.49 billion for the federal Bridge Investment Program over a five-year period — about $2.5 billion annually between 2022 and 2026.

The lawmakers claim the state of the nation’s bridges necessitates additional funding.

The backlog for bridge repairs stands at $125 billion, and the Federal Highway Administration estimates an additional $8.3 billion is needed each year to address the challenge, according to the letter.

“Making these key investments to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure today will provide outsized benefits for decades to come,” the lawmakers wrote. “Funding the Bridge Investment Program at its fully authorized level is a necessary step towards improving the condition of our bridges and the function of our nation’s transportation system.”

Central campaign issue

Last year, Perez helped secure a $600 million Department of Transportation Mega grant to replace the I-5 Bridge, the first major federal investment in the program.

Perez continues to express support for upcoming funding opportunities to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and she touts her support for the replacement program on the campaign trail.

“From Day 1, it’s been my mission to bring our federal tax dollars back to Southwest Washington to replace the deteriorating, functionally obsolete I-5 Bridge,” Perez said in a news release.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program is a central issue in this year’s race for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.

Morning Briefing Newsletter envelope icon
Get a rundown of the latest local and regional news every Mon-Fri morning.

Perez’s challengers Joe Kent of Yacolt and Leslie Lewallen of Camas, both Republicans, do not support replacing the current bridge.

Kent made waves in March when he was quoted in The New York Times claiming that adding light rail on the new bridge would create an “antifa superhighway.” He also does not support tolling to fund a replacement.

“We don’t want the problems of downtown Portland dumped right into our district in Vancouver,” Kent said in a livestream.

At a recent event hosted by the Southwest Washington Federated Republican Women, Lewallen said she does not support the bridge replacement because the U.S. Coast Guard has raised concerns that the height requirement for the new bridge is too low, and because light rail has been voted down in the past.

“You better listen to the U.S. Coast Guard if they’re saying there’s a flaw,” she said.

Like Kent, she has expressed support for a third Clark County bridge across the Columbia River.