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PORTLAND On Monday, President Obama will announce the Columbia River Crossing as a project to be expedited through his We Can't Wait initiative.

KGW obtained an early copy of a news release outlining four nationally significant transportation projects, one of which is the plan to update the I-5 Columbia River bridge.

The $3.5 billion project will attempt to build on previous efforts between numerous agencies which have caused headaches over the past few years for some residents on either side of the outdated span.

The current Interstate 5 bridges linking Oregon and Washington are considered unsafe and their wooden pilings are set in liquefiable soil, a major risk in the event of an earthquake. Tie-ups on the bridges infuriate commuters and truckers.

The designation gives the project national significance, and the federal government can now step in to expedite permits and save time.

President Obama s designation underscores the importance of the Columbia River Crossing project to the thousands of people who use on it every day to keep our region s economy growing, Gov. John Kitzhaber said when news first reached his office on Saturday.

The crossing is an important link for freight moving between Canada and Mexico. I-5 carries more than $40 billion in freight each year.

Our businesses and citizens are working hard to recover from the economic recession, and they can t afford losing the I-5 connection across the Columbia River from an earthquake, or for freight and commuters to be stuck in traffic during bridge lifts and accidents, said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

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