Oregon Legislature says ‘Build the Bridge!’

The Oregon Senate  voted 18-11 on March 4 to approve a bill authorizing $450 million in bond funding to help pay for the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project, also known as the Columbia River Crossing.

The Oregon House of Representatives approved the measure, HB 2800, last month. The vote in that chamber was 45-11, with 30 Democrats and 15 Republicans supporting the bill.

Four Senate Republicans joined 14 Democrats to pass the bill. Sen. Jackie Dingfelder of Portland was the lone Democrat in opposition.

“This represents a major milestone for the I-5 Bridge Replacement project that will create thousands of construction jobs in Oregon,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council. “Now all eyes are on the Washington Legislature.”

The $3.4 billion project would replace the I-5 bridge with a new span and light rail and improve interchanges from Portland to Vancouver.

Oregon’s portion of the funding for the next two years will come from existing funds in the Oregon Department of Transportation budget. Legislators placed a number of safeguards on the project so that bonds will only be sold when a specific set of criteria are met.  Those criteria include commitments from Washington State and the federal government to pay for their share of the project, and the completion of an investment grade analysis by the state treasurer.

The federal government won’t appropriate funds until both Oregon and Washington commit $450 million each to the project. The project also must win approval from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Washington Legislature is still debating how it will approve its share of the funding.

Oregon’s HB 2800 includes a number of “buy America” requirements that will ensure goods manufactured in the United States are used to construct the bridge. Provisions to utilize apprenticeship training programs are also included.

In addition to construction jobs, the economic impacts from replacing the bridge and improving the interchanges will result in the creation of 4,200 jobs and $231 million in additional wages in 2030, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a press release.

Kitzhaber signed the bill March 12.

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