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Legislation eases worries on funding Columbia River Crossing

With all the hoopla coming lately from the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners over regional transportation projects, some positive news was almost lost in the shuffle.

The Oregon House passed HB 2800 on Feb. 25, establishing a framework for defining Oregon’s share of the costs associated with replacing the aging and obsolete Interstate 5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

A sigh of relief could almost be heard as the House passed the bill, at least easing anxiety that Oregon would encounter ever-increasing costs and ultimately shoulder an unfair share of the cost in comparison to its partners — Washington state and the federal government.

We are grateful to report that the entire delegation of East County lawmakers in the House — Rep. Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, and Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River — voted for passage of HB 2800.

With passage of this legislation, Oregon lawmakers and the state’s citizenry can move ahead with finalizing plans for this project with clear expectations of the cost, and with escape routes in the event the cost becomes too onerous or unbalanced.

This is good news for all Oregonians. The Interstate 5 bridge is a vital link in the daily movement of goods, services and workers in the regional and state economy. Think of Interstate 5 as a major artery leading to the heart of Oregon’s economy. But the existing I-5 bridge is hindered by a blockage that slows that daily movement to a crawl.

The new Columbia River Crossing will improve the efficiency of regional transportation by keeping that artery flowing more smoothly.

With passage in the House, the bill already has received a warm welcome in the Senate. We hope for the signing of the legislation into law, and that it will be the encouragement needed to prod the project toward construction.

Sadly, while all of this took place in Salem, most of the Clackamas County commissioners were throwing a hissy fit over the Columbia River Crossing.

If you missed it, the Clackamas County Commission voted 3-2 for a special election on the possibility of tolling motorists on Interstate 205 to address concerns about the potential impacts to the county of the Columbia River Crossing. Of course, that was just silly political swagger that was almost as quickly withdrawn when it became clear that Clackamas County voters lack any authority to impose a toll on the federal highway system.

Of course, we would prefer that the Clackamas County Commission acknowledge the importance of the I-5 bridge to the regional economy, and pledge to work with regional, state and federal governments on a design of the Columbia River Crossing that well serves citizens on both sides of the river.




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