Senate easily passes I-5 Bridge re-start

I-5 Bridge

The Washington state Legislature has approved a bill to re-start the planning process for a new Interstate 5 Bridge.

On Monday, the Senate followed the House’s lead by voting 44-4 to pass Substitute Senate Bill 5806. The bill enables the Washington State and Oregon departments of transportation to begin a bridge planning process; creates a bi-state legislative action committee; reviews and confirms lead roles and responsibilities related to a future I-5 Bridge; and ensures adequate funding for the planning process to begin.

Several legislators from Southwest Washington supported the bill, including Sens. Annette Cleveland (D-49), Ann Rivers (R-18) and Lynda Wilson (R-17), and Reps. Sharon Wylie (D-49), Monica Stonier (D-49), Brandon Vick (R-18) and Paul Harris (R-17). Reps. Ed Orcutt (R-20) and Liz Pike (R-18) were among those who voted against the bill.

“[Supporting legislators] took a giant first step toward improving the safety of our people, environment and society, and the health of our region’s economy,” said Identity Clark County, a privately-funded business organization comprised of about 70 business investors. “We look forward to supporting our legislative leaders as they begin conversations with their colleagues in Oregon to define and propose a safe, practical bridge project, while opening necessary conversation about other transportation improvements between the two states.”

In a show of solidarity, the ports of Vancouver, Camas-Washougal and Ridgefield applaud the legislature’s decision with a joint press release.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our local lawmakers and the legislature’s decision,” said Port of Vancouver CEO Julianna Marler in the release. “The I-5 Bridge is a key physical and economic link for our states and the entire West Coast. As we all continue to grow and more goods and people need to move, we must find ways to address mobility on I-5 to support economic health at the local, regional and national levels. This legislation opens the door to making that happen.”

Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp said the bill’s passage is a step forward in recognizing the statewide importance of the I-5 Bridge replacement.

“With traffic congestion throughout the I-5 corridor negatively impacting freight mobility, the economies of Southwest Washington and the Portland metropolitan area, this border crossing replacement has become increasingly necessary,” said Ripp.

According to data from the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, peak hour vehicle and truck delays related to the I-5 Bridge have increased by more than 50 percent year over year as the regional economy recovered after the 2008 recession.

“This action speaks to the fact that people and freight will be moving on I-5 deep into the 21st century,” said Port of Ridgefield CEO Brent Grening. “Connectivity between communities is critical to our economic success, and the modern infrastructure we build today, with tomorrow in mind, will help us create the state-of-the-art economy we will need in the future.”

The bill now advances to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature.