Heated debate in Salem over new I-5 bridge

Heated debate in Salem over new I-5 bridge

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by Abbey Gibb, KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on February 12, 2013 at 7:40 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 12 at 9:50 AM

SALEM -- Residents from Oregon and Washington debated for more than four hours Monday night over a replacement Interstate 5 bridge between their states.

The overflow spilled into a second hearing room inside the Oregon State Capitol.

"I don't think we can overstate the investment of this project in Oregon's economy," said one Oregon contractor.

Supporters said the I-5 bridge is imperative to getting the struggling construction business back afloat.

"Our members just want to go back to work, earn their wages, spend their paychecks," said John Mohlis with the Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber supports the replacement span for economic reasons. Vancouver Democrats sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, asking him to speed up the permitting process.

Pressure is mounting in order to apply for federal funding this summer. But many testified that deadlines alone shouldn't be reason enough to move forward.

Related: Obama to expedite Columbia River Crossing

"This logic ignores the fact that this plan is flawed," said Paul Comery of Portland.

Opponents said jobs would be lost as Jantzen Beach businesses are wiped out to make way for construction. There is also a continued debate over the cost and necessity of the light rail system that would cross the bridge.

"What problem are we trying to solve with a slow train to another state?" John Charles asked.

"When I look at the cost of light rail, I feel like I’ve stepped off the planet," said retired engineer Art Creole.

Lawmakers hope to move the bill forward before the Washington Legislature adjourns in April.

More: Governors narrow I-5 bridge options

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