Bi-State Bridge Committee cancels meeting as ODOT seeks input on tolling


The committee consists of elected representatives of both the Oregon and Washington state legislatures, with the goal of providing input to the joint effort to replace the aging Interstate Bridge

The Bi-State Bridge Committee of Oregon & Washington seeking to replace the Interstate Bridge cancelled a scheduled meeting Wednesday. No reason was given.

The committee consists of elected representatives of both the Oregon and Washington state legislatures, with the goal of providing input to the joint effort to replace the aging Interstate Bridge.

Over 70,000 Clark County residents commute to work in Oregon. File photo
Over 70,000 Clark County residents commute to work in Oregon. File photo

The meeting agenda included two items: A review of high-capacity transit (HCT) alternatives analysis from previous planning efforts and an approach to identify new HCT alternatives to be analyzed; and a review of river-crossing alternatives from previous planning efforts and approach to identify new river-crossing alternatives to be analyzed.

The cancellation comes near the end of the 45-day public comment period ODOT has established for citizen input on their plan to toll I-205. A critical concern of citizens is tolling regarding the Interstate Bridge replacement. Legislators from both states have assumed tolls will be part of the funding of a replacement bridge.

During the failed Columbia River Crossing effort nearly a decade ago, $8 tolls was one of many reasons the project failed to get the approval of the Washington State Legislature. Over 70,000 Clark County residents commute to work in Oregon. One analysis of the tolling impact indicated Southwest Washington residents could pay up to 60 percent of the tolls.

Since then, Oregon enacted HB2017 requiring the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to study and impose tolls on I-5 and I-205 beginning at the border with Washington.

Earlier this year, ODOT and WSDOT hired Greg Johnson of WSP USA, a consulting firm, to lead the effort to replace the I-5 Bridge. He began his duties on July 6 after relocating from Michigan.

A Washington State Department of Transportation news release stated: “Greg Johnson will serve as program administrator to lead the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office and WSP has been selected as the prime consultant to provide specialized expertise to support program work.”

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) has been an outspoken critic of the Oregon tolling scheme. She recently wrote Johnson, sharing her concerns. She asked him to “avoid the pitfalls that doomed” the previous project.

“The project, like the CRC, will fail if one state dictates to the other, or if transportation officials only pay lip service to stakeholders’ concerns while making decisions behind closed doors,” the Congresswoman wrote. “Concerns raised by Southwest Washington residents during the CRC project — and more recently on Oregon’s current tolling scheme — were not taken into account.”

The Congresswoman concluded by hoping for “a transparent, inclusive process that earns widespread support on both sides of the Columbia River.”

The Washington State Legislature allocated $35 million and the Oregon Transportation Commission approved allocating $9 million in 2019 and an additional $4 million in 2020 to begin the process.

The Bi-State Bridge Committee has met several times in the past, initially with just Washington legislators present. Last December, members of both state legislatures met for the first time. The committee has held meetings roughly every quarter since then.

For more information on the Interstate Bridge replacement project, citizens can go to https://wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i5/interstate-bridge/home. For more information on Oregon’s tolling plans, citizens can go to http://oregonevents.org/openhouse/i205toll.

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About The Author

John is a retired airline pilot, serving Delta for over 31 years. Prior to Delta, he served in the US Air Force for 11 and a half years; three and a half years as a Public Affairs Officer and eight years as a pilot. John flew multiple airplanes around the world for Delta, retiring as a B-767 Captain. During his 31 years at Delta, John served as a member of the pilot’s union leadership, representing the Portland-based pilots for five years. John got involved in area politics during the Columbia River Crossing debate. He became a citizen activist, speaking out against wasteful spending and fighting for common sense transportation solutions. He ran for the Washington state legislature twice, a Representative position in 2014 and Senate in 2020. John is the eldest of six children. He remains extremely close with members of his family and lives in Oregon and Washington. He has 14 nieces and nephews and a growing number of “grands” in the next generation. John has enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, travel, and time on his Harley when he’s not busy with local issues or flying.

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