Governor Kitzhaber throws in the towel on the Columbia River Crossing – “Project managers have begun to close down the project.”
Governor Kitzhaber issued a statement late Saturday after what appears to be the final “no” vote in the Washington State Senate – there is not a majority vote to support Washington State’s contribution to replace the current Columbia River Bridge between Portland and Vancouver. A number of Washington senators still maintained that the bridge is not high enough to allow major river traffic to pass under it, and they simply don’t want to have to pay for light rail that is built into the design of the structure.
Here’s Governor Kitzhaber’s formal statement:
Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber released the following statement after the Washington Legislature failed to pass a transportation package:
“I am extremely disappointed that our legislative partners in the Washington State Senate failed to address the clear and present safety and economic need for this essential I-5 bridge. I have worked with three committed Washington governors on this project – starting with Governor Locke, then Governor Gregoire and now Governor Inslee – which makes the demise of the Columbia River Crossing without an up or down vote in the Senate even more disheartening.
I want to thank Governor Inslee for his strong support and extraordinary effort to deliver Washington’s share of funding for the I-5 replacement bridge. The failure of the Senate to act does not eliminate the safety and economic risks to both our states, but without the funds from Washington and adherence to the project budget and schedule, neither state can incur the further costs of delay. Consequently, project managers have begun to close down the project.
Governor Inslee and I will continue to work together, but our options will be different without Washington state’s financial partnership. Without bi-state funding, I have asked ODOT to review all of the work on the Oregon side of the project to determine if any stand-alone investments could be made to improve safety and reduce congestion on a smaller scale. That work will be subject for further legislative review.”
As a footnote, bridge experts all agree that doing nothing about the Portland to Vancouver Bridge is not an option. It was built in 1916 and is termed by ODOT as “structurally deficient.” That doesn’t mean it’s about to fall down, but it does mean that it requires major maintenance to keep it working. But there is a limit to its life span. And nobody wants to pick a year in the future when it’s no longer safe. It also has a traffic disrupting section that is lifted high in the air whenever a ship needs to move past the bridge. The design that was just rejected by Washington’s Senate would have been high enough to allow most structures like oil drilling rigs and ships to pass under it but anything bigger would have to be built downstream from Portland. The bridge at Astoria is so high that just about anything can pass under it. Washington Senators also didn’t like having to include the expense of including light rail on the bridge.
So, good try. But this design didn’t fly.