Oregon Governor Issues Ultimatum For I-5 Bridge Project

By Chris Lehman

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber says he's prepared to pull the plug on the Interstate 5 bridge replacement mega-project. The Democrat told Oregon lawmakers Monday that he'll put the Columbia River Crossing on an indefinite time-out if they don't act by mid-March.

Oregon lawmakers did approve $450 million in state funding last year to replace the aging I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. But that spending authorization expired last fall after Washington state lawmakers failed to approve any money. But the idea of an Oregon-only approach has struggled to gain traction in Salem. Kitzhaber says if Oregon lawmakers don't move ahead by the end of the 2014 session, he'll tell the Oregon Department of Transportation to close down the project. Democratic Representative Tobias Read, who's led legislative efforts to build the bridge, says he doesn't want that to happen.

Tobias Read: "If we don't act, it's not as if the problems of that area go away."

Opponents of the project have questioned whether toll revenue will be high enough to pay off the anticipated $2.8 billion cost. They have also objected to the plan to include light rail on the new bridge, calling that expensive and unnecessary.

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