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Oregon Legislature approves $1 billion for I-5 bridge replacement

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(The Center Square) – The Oregon Legislature has passed $1 billion in funding for a bistate project to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.

The project’s funding comes courtesy of House Bill 5005, a budget bill that passed on June 25, the last day of session.

The bill funds the bridge replacement in increments, budgeting just more than $250 million at the time of passage, allowing the spending of additional amounts of $250 million in 2025, 2027 and 2029.

“I think it sets a terrible precedent,” said state Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, during a June 20 meeting of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction. “We are basically obligating the next three biennium to come up with $250 million.”

During that same meeting, House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, noted the bill’s limitations.

“This bill gives us a framework to be competitive for grant dollars on the federal level, but it does not commit us to this funding mechanism,” he said. “This Legislature will still have to come back and approve expenditure limitation for that I-5 bridge.”

Operating and maintaining the span between Portland and Vancouver costs $1.2 million annually, split evenly between the transportation departments of the two states.

“This important step moves this critical infrastructure program forward, which will positively impact our region’s transportation system and economy for generations,” notes the website of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, as the project is known.

The cost estimate for the bridge replacement jumped to somewhere between $5 billion to $7.5 billion total in December. Both state departmetns of transportation applied for a potential of more than $2 billion in federal funds for the replacement.

The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5765 in April, approving tolling on the I-5 bridge to help fund the project. Clark County, which hosts the Vancouver entrance to the bridge, had opposed tolls.

“This is not the last time this Legislature will be talking about the bridge,” Rayfield said.

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