High-tech leaders: Address I-5 Bridge now

Add Clark County’s high-tech business leaders to the chorus of local voices who aren’t pleased with the transportation revenue package under consideration in the Washington Legislature this year.

The Clark County High Technology and Community Council, a group representing numerous employers and thousands of employees in the region, sent a letter to state lawmakers late last month objecting to the proposed $15 billion package.

Their reason: The package doesn’t include a solution for the troubled Interstate 5 Bridge.

“The lack of replacement of the I-5 Bridge means continued accidents, congestion and an inability to efficiently move freight and goods through the corridor and in and out of our state,” the letter read. “This means that industries and manufacturers will be reluctant to expand or be attracted to our state or Southwest Washington.”

The letter was signed by Robert Bernardi of Kokusai Semiconductor Equipment Corp., who chairs the high-tech council.

The council is far from the only group in Clark County to express disappointment in the transportation package that emerged from the state Senate last month and won approval in the chamber March 2. The package has drawn skepticism from several local lawmakers who say it delivers too little to the region. (The package only includes about $160 million for highway projects in Clark County.)

Two years ago, a proposed transportation package carved out $450 million for the Columbia River Crossing, the failed $3 billion I-5 Bridge replacement plan. The package fizzled, and the CRC died for good last year.

In its letter, the high-tech council said it remains “seriously concerned at the seeming lack of interest within the Washington State Legislature to re-address the Columbia River Crossing.”

To be clear: It’s very, very unlikely that any transportation package approved this year will include an I-5 Bridge replacement or a major fix to the corridor. But the high-tech council and others continue to make the case that the region can’t wait for the next opportunity to come around.

“Because the transportation package spans a 16-year period, it is critical that the legislature and governor address the I-5 bridge replacement now,” the letter read.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at eric.florip@columbian.com or 360-735-4541.

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