PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A bill aiming to kickstart an Interstate 5 bridge replacement project passed the Washington House of Representatives on Monday.
House Bill 2095 passed with a vote of 60-38 and now heads to the Washington Senate.
The bill was filed by Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, and it aims to start preliminary work to develop a process for planning an Interstate 5 bridge replacement. It’s one of the fist steps in getting a new bridge project going again. The bridge dates back to 1917, and experts say it won’t survive the Big One.
Martha Irvine, a Portland resident said, “There was a bridge up in Washington that did collapse with people on it, so when I drive up Interstate 5, I think about that.”
And although Wylie said she knows there will be plenty of obstacles going forward, her constituents have told her to “go for it.”
One of her immediate goals is to free up data collected during the now dead Columbia River Crossing project from the Washington Department of Transportation.
“I think there’s a lot of complicated reasons why that happened, and I think we should move past them and move forward in fixing the problem,” said Vancouver resident Sarah Sargent.
Bridge congestion is causing Wylie’s constituents to become impatient due to increased truck traffic and the construction of a new casino north of Vancouver. A study published in May 2016 showed that commute time between Portland and Vancouver was up 300%.
Vancouver resident Mikey Sater said, “I think we need to fix something because it’s so congested. Going over in to Oregon it goes down to 2 lanes at some points, and I think it’ll help.
Wylie said she’s working to tackle any legislative issues related to the bridge first because that’s where the problem was with prior bridge projects.
“It’s gonna take some work,” she said.
The last effort for a new bridge, the Columbia River Crossing Project, contained more than 15 years of work and saw $105 million spent. That project died in 2014.
The new bridge would have included widening part of Interstate 5, replacing the bridge and extending the MAX into Vancouver. Former Gov. Kitzhaber said a new bridge would have improved safety and decreased congestion.
To succeed, the Columbia River Crossing Project needed funding from the Oregon Legislature and a signed agreement with the state of Washington. Neither happened by the deadline of March 15, 2014.
The Interstate 5 bridge costs $1 million each year to staff the structure’s maintenance crew and an additional $1.2 million annually for repairs. Within the next decade, the bridge will require a new axle pulley that will cost up to $12 million. Engineers have said the bridge would fall into the Columbia in a large earthquake.
Officials say the last new bridge was going to cost nearly $3 billion.