Clark County saw some wins and at least one disappointment in proposals released by House budget writers to fund transportation and construction across the state.
On Monday, the chairs of the House Transportation Committee and House Capital Budget Committee released their respective two-year budgets. While both contain some good news for Clark County, both will need to be reconciled with Senate versions before being signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The nearly $10 billion transportation budget includes funding for one of the biggest priorities for local leaders in Clark County, with $8.7 million toward the replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River.
Speaking at a press event, Rep. Sharon Wylie, a Vancouver Democrat who sits on the House Transportation Committee, said that the funding would be a significant investment toward restarting the conversation between Oregon and Washington over replacing the bridge.
“Remember, this is a 100-year-old bridge with timbers resting on mud in an earthquake subduction zone,” said Wylie, who called the facility a “chokepoint” that is affecting the region’s economy.
Brian Enslow, a lobbyist for the city of Vancouver, said that the funding is a priority for the city. He said it will be used to establish a project office for replacing the bridge. The amount is less than the $17.5 million Inslee included in his proposed budget. Enslow pointed out that unlike Inslee’s proposed budget, which assumed the new bridge would include light rail, the House version does not.
While the Senate has yet to release a complete transportation budget, earlier this month the Senate Transportation Committee passed a package of bills that contained a $450 million “placeholder” for the I-5 Bridge replacement. The package of bills included a carbon tax and an increase in the gas tax to fund infrastructure projects, which the House version does not include.