Washington’s political gridlock over replacement of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River has even caught the attention of The Economist, Britain’s distinguished news magazine.
A headline on the article about the Columbia River Crossing expresses evident frustration with what it reports: “Sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets built.”
With droll acknowledgement of the gorgeous vistas, the article notes commuters stuck in traffic have plenty of time to take in the views.
The crossing’s role in the economy is duly recognized: “Thousands of Vancouverites commute to jobs in Portland, and the bridge lies on an important route for lorries bearing freight, much of it offloaded at nearby ports.” Indeed.
The federal government and Oregon have already committed funds for a new bridge, if Washington steps up. Most of the official obstinacy in Olympia about providing the state’s share of the replacement costs comes from lawmakers outside of Vancouver. Local support is strong, on both sides of the river, as I explain in my column.
A business story in The Oregonian adds another wrinkle to what might be a changing dynamic. Vancouver just enjoyed an economic development coup. A Portland telecommunications company, Integra, will relocate and consolidate 690 employees scattered around Portland to a long vacant former Hewlett-Packard Co. campus in east Vancouver. Almost half of the workers already live in Washington.
The other employees in Oregon, many of whom are used to riding light rail to work in northeast Portland, will have to navigate the traffic across the aged bridge. As the transportation realities in and around Vancouver become clear, the Columbia River Crossing debate is likely to gain new voices for change.