Despite failure, Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge project lives on in regional transit plan



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VANCOUVER, Washington — Part of the Clark County long-range regional transportation plan sounds familiar: It calls for replacing the Interstate 5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland.

It doesn't call the $3.3 billion project the Columbia River Crossing — the failed megaproject that also would have built the bridge — but it includes many of the same elements and cost estimates, The Columbian reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1tUgWqk ).

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council is reviewing the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and could adopt it next month.

Improvements on Interstate 5 are still needed and the defunct Columbia River Crossing project offers the best outline of what they would look like, council Executive Director Matt Ransom said.

The plan is not a definitive blueprint for the next two decades, only a planning document, he said.

"In the absence of a different alternative, we're saying, 'Hey, there's still a need for improvement and a series of improvements along the I-5 corridor,'" Ransom said. "The plan is not saying that all of those components must be built or are recommended to be built."

Washington pulled out of the Columbia River Crossing project last year, and an Oregon-only version of the project came to a dead end earlier this year.

But the defunct project is still within the Washington Transportation Department's Highway System Plan, spokesman Bart Treece said.

The agency essentially considers it an unfunded project.

"It's been identified as a transportation safety need," Treece said. "Just because the project went away doesn't mean the need has."

In October, some Regional Transportation Council board members questioned why the Columbia River Crossing remained in long-range plans, given what they called a clear legislative message to move in a different direction.

"Who's driving?" asked David Madore, a Clark County commissioner. "Is it the Legislature that identifies the major priorities, multibillion-dollar projects, or is it WSDOT that informs the elected officials of what they want?"


Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com

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