By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
PORTLAND – The Oregon House of Representatives could vote as early as Monday on a $3.4 billion transportation project that would replace the Interstate-5 Bridge from Portland to Vancouver, Wa. and extend light rail.
A joint committee of the House and Senate tasked with considering the project, voted in favor of it by a vote of 14-2 Monday night – Feb. 18 – during the second of two lengthy public hearings. Jared Mason-Gere, a spokesman for House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-North/NE Portland, said via email that it depends on how long it takes for the amendment to the bill, House Bill 2800, to be filed and other paperwork but that they are “anticipating a floor vote on Monday.” (Feb. 25)
The bridge project, which has drawn a slew of opposition from all sides of the political spectrum as well as support from the business sector, would cost Oregon $450 million, which the state would pay for with bonds, costing about $27 million over $30 years, according to transportation officials. But there is no new revenue stream to fund it.
For the project – also known as the Columbia River Crossing - to become a reality, it will need support and another $450 million from Washington state as well as federal funding.
Opponents and proponents of the project packed the capitol for both hearings – Feb. 11 and Feb. 18. -from liberal environmentalists who fear the bridge is an expanded highway project to conservatives who don’t like the hefty price tag or the rail component. The proposed height of the bridge, which would limit some vessels from clearing the structure and possibly affect some jobs, is also a major area of contention.
Some Washignton lawmakers are also fighting the project and have introduced legislation to take out the light rail component.