Oregon House OKs Columbia bridge bonds

The Associated PressFebruary 26, 2013 

SALEM, Ore.— The Oregon House on Monday approved $450 million in bonds to help pay for new Interstate 5 and light-rail bridges connecting Portland and Vancouver across the Columbia River.

Lawmakers approved the funding despite lack of a definitive revenue source to repay the bonds at a cost of about $28 million a year for three decades.

Proponents say they’ll use a federal highway fund windfall to cover the cost in the first three years and may seek a dedicated revenue source — like a hike in gas taxes or vehicle fees — as part of a large transportation package in 2015.

The House’s 45-11 vote sends the measure to the Senate. Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber is a strong supporter of the project, and his spokesman, Tim Raphael, said the governor would sign the bill.

Oregon will be able to sell bonds only if Washington state comes up with its $450 million share, the federal government puts up more than $1 billion and the U.S. Coast Guard issues a permit.

The $3.4 billion project would include two new bridges for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and light rail trains, along with new freeway interchanges on both sides of the river. Project designs call for two double-decker bridges with 10 highway travel lanes in each direction, up from six.

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