The development of a new replacement I-5 bridge spanning the Columbia River moved a step closer to reality today with the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 5806, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver.

“The most significant north-south interstate freight corridor on the West Coast is hobbled by a dilapidated, outmoded drawbridge that was not built to withstand a major earthquake,” Cleveland said. “Traffic stands still each time the bridge must be raised to allow river traffic to pass below, hours are lost, and our area’s largest freight facilities — the Port of Portland and Port of Vancouver — struggle to maintain crucial links between the western United States and regional, national and global markets.”

Among other things, Cleveland’s legislation would establish a Joint Oregon-Washington legislative action committee to work on several fronts, including beginning a process towards development for a new bridge. The bill would appropriate $350,000 for the Washington Department of Transportation to sort and amass data related to the construction of a new replacement bridge.

“What this bill represents on a technical level are key initial steps to get this important project moving,” Cleveland said. “What it represents in a larger sense is a hard-earned, bipartisan consensus among nearly all southwest Washington legislators to move forward without the division that undid the last bridge project.”

Cleveland noted that the existing bridge is a choke point that averages 400 collisions a year; by 2030, when the bridge transports increasingly more vehicles and increasingly large pieces of equipment by truck, the number of collisions is projected to double.  In addition to the need for improved safety and reliability, Cleveland sees a new replacement I-5 bridge as being critical for the future.

“I believe our children and grandchildren deserve from us the same willingness to invest in infrastructure for the future as our grandfathers and great grandfathers willingly fought for and invested in for us 100 years ago,” she said.

SB 5806 passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan, 45-4 vote and now goes to the House for consideration in that chamber.