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Oregon, Washington lawmakers talk about new Columbia River bridge

by: COURTESY WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE - Legislators from Washington and Oregon met in Vancouver Wednesday to discuss options for a future bridge or bridges between Clark County and Portland.Lawmakers from Oregon and Washington met on Wednesday in Vancouver to talking about seeking options for a new bridge or bridges over the Columbia River.

The informal talks, which were not announced in advance, were the first discussions from lawmakers in both states since the Columbia River Crossing project died at the end of the 2014 Oregon Legislature. The Washington Legislature had previously refused to fund its share of the project, and legislators in Salem gave up on pursuing an Oregon-led project during the session.

No decisions were reached during the Bi-State Bridge Coalition meeting, which was organized by Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas) and Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles).

“First, we want to make it very clear this is not an effort to revive the Columbia River Crossing project. We recognize, however, that although the CRC is dead, our interstate traffic problems will not simply vanish,” Pike, a member of the Washington House Transportation Committee, said after the meeting. “Hitting the reset button means we begin anew and determine what’s next. We believe it’s time to move past the CRC, leave behind components such as light rail that doomed that project, and focus on newer, comprehensive transportation solutions between Southwest Washington and the Portland metro area.”

“All of us recognize that before we even begin to talk about building a bridge or bridges between Oregon and Washington, we first have to rebuild relationships between our two states,” said Huffman, who serves on the Oregon Joint Interim Committee on Ways and Means. “A lot of money was spent between the two states on the CRC project. What led to its ultimate failure is that we never really came together in a bipartisan, bi-state effort to forge a working solution that would be acceptable to both states. We won’t make that mistake again. We have to work together to make it work successfully. That effort begins today.”

Organizers invited 22 legislators to the initial private meeting. Eight from Washington and four from

Oregon attended. They included:

Oregon legislators

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles

Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Lynn

Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton

Washington legislators

Sem. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center

Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama

Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas

Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview

Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver

“We are very grateful to all the Oregon and Washington legislators who took time from their busy schedules to attend this initial relationship-building meeting. This gave us the opportunity to determine if there is interest in new cross-river transportation solutions without light rail that would relieve traffic congestion and improve freight mobility between our states,” said Rivers, a member of the Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I’m pleased to say those who attended today have expressed interest

in meeting again in an open public forum and working cooperatively to determine future transportation

solutions.”