Washington legislature backs new Interstate 5 bridge replacement plans

The Interstate Bridge that spans the Columbia River and connects the states of Oregon and Washington. (KATU Photo)

There's a glimmer of hope for some drivers that the century-old Interstate 5 Bridge between Portland and Vancouver may be replaced.

The Washington State Senate voted 44 to 4 to once again study replacing the Interstate Bridge.

The Columbia River Crossing replacement plan in 2014 cost millions of dollars and was rejected by Washington's legislature. The plan turned into a feud between Washington, Oregon and federal transportation officials. It included plans for a new bridge with five miles of freeway redesign.

The new study would figure out which parts of that plan could be used, like only building a new bridge. Backers expect funding might come from a combination of tolls and federal transportation money. The bill also invites Oregon to take part in a two-state legislative action committee to oversee the plan.

"It was really up to Washington state to signal that we had the bipartisan support necessary to move forward, and I think this shows that we're moving in that direction," Ron Arp with Identity Clark County said.

"Our growth is unbelievable. They're not going to be able to not do it this time," said Vancouver resident and Interstate Bridge commuter Donita Smith. "We live in West Vancouver now and I can't - where it takes me an hour-and-a-half it used to take me twenty minutes to run errands."

The Washington State Senate vote followed a senate transportation committee hearing last month in which one opponent of the failed Columbia River Crossing bridge replacement project admitted he'd made a mistake.

"Typically in my life," testified Republican state representative Paul Harris in a March 28th hearing, "when I've done something wrong and I try to correct it, it always is more work. And I think that is the case here in my life. I was part of the people a long time ago that killed the bridge. And now I'm trying to resurrect a bridge."

The Columbia River Crossing project was cancelled in 2014.

Oregon's Department of Transportation says it's ready to provide information to that legislative action committee to get the process started. The bill now moves to Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee's desk.

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