Oregon third-bridge proponent loses reelection

The dream of a third bridge across the Columbia River suffered a set back in last week’s election and it happened in Oregon.

State Rep. Rich Vial, a Republican representing a district southwest of Portland, lost his seat to a Democratic challenger. During his single term in the Legislature, Vial unsuccessfully sponsored a bi-partisan bill that would have created the framework for a new bypass. The proposed highway would have connected Oregon’s Washington County to Clark County with a new bridge over the Columbia River.

In Clark County, elected officials have been divided over bridges. While the county’s legislative delegation has largely coalesced around working with Oregon to replace the outmoded Interstate 5 bridge, other elected officials and activists have argued that the only way to meaningfully solve the area’s congestion problem is by building a third bridge over the Columbia River.

Proponents of a third-bridge have pointed to Vial’s efforts as proof of bi-state support for the idea. During an interview with The Columbian’s Editorial Board in July, state Rep. Vicki Kraft, a Vancouver Republican and third-bridge booster, referenced Vial’s position on a key committee.

Kraft, who won her reelection last week, said in a text that she’s not deterred by Vial’s defeat.

“There were others in a bipartisan effort in Oregon who supported that effort as well,” she said.

But the bigger set back might be the reelection of Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. During a debate with her opponent in October, the topic of a third bridge didn’t come up. Brown said she’d be open to reopening talks to replace the I-5 bridge, but Washington would need to accept light rail, a transit option third-bridge opponents really hate.

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