The bridge to somewhere

By Observer editorial March 04, 2013 09:13 am
You’ve probably heard of The Bridge to Nowhere.

The Gravina Island Bridge, which would have cost about $400 million to build, was proposed to replace the ferry that connects Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island and Ketchikan International Airport.

The island has 50 residents — and a lot of bears. Members of the Alaskan congressional delegation pushed for federal funding but encountered fierce opposition throughout the rest of the United States, which thought the project smelled highly of pork barrel spending.

Oregon (and Washington) will soon be building The Bridge to Somewhere.

The new pair of bridges, called the Columbia River Crossing, would replace the worn-out and outdated Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Wash. Traffic jams there are notorious. The delays are costly to businesses and the Northwest economy.

The Oregon House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 2800 that would authorize bonds for $450 million, an amount expected to be matched by Washington state for Columbia River Crossing. The Oregon Senate is scheduled to consider the legislation today, and should do the same.

“By investing in a safe and effective transportation system for Oregon, we are providing a safer and less congested trip for freight and commuters. It is time that we build this bridge,” Gov. John Kitzhaber said.

There are safeguards in the Oregon House bill to prevent the project from becoming an albatross. A series of “triggers” will require the federal government and Washington state to help fund the project. If that fails to happens, the project is dead in the water.

The I-5 bridge has outlived its useful life. It’s almost 100 years old. The new bridge began life in 1917, replacing ferry service in place since 1870.

Oregon needs to continue aggressively updating its infrastructure to compete economically. The time has come to build The Bridge to Somewhere.