On Monday, a bipartisan legislative committee voted overwhelmingly to authorize our state’s down payment on the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. This project will boost Oregon’s economy by putting people to work and resolving issues that prevent businesses from easily moving products along the I-5 corridor.
The timing of these investments is important — the window to secure roughly a billion dollars in federal funds and matching dollars from Washington state is quickly shrinking. It’s time for Oregon to put up our share.
The financing of the bridge is a serious concern. That’s why I was glad to see the committee add sideboards that ensure no Oregon taxpayer dollars will be issued without investments from Washington state and Washington D.C., and that there will be approval of a comprehensive financing plan by the state treasurer and attainment of permits before bonds are issued.
The committee wisely added tolling capacity — a fair way of asking Oregonians who expect to directly use and benefit from the bridge to pay their fair share — and requirements to use American-made materials and offer apprenticeship opportunities that help people get back to work.
Environmental and community concerns remain, but inclusion of bike lanes, interchange upgrades and light rail will help to ensure our transportation system is moving forward responsibly.
I-5 is the heart of our transportation system on the West Coast, and this project will directly benefit Oregonians and the Rogue Valley’s businesses. It’s time to build that bridge.