Light Rail Battle Resumes on Columbia River Bridge

Early talks on the next Columbia River bridge have hit the same snag that sank the last one: light rail.

Earlier this month, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer told WW that a new Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia would need to include a light rail line or it wouldn’t be funded by the Biden administration.

In an April 21 op-ed published on a conservative-leaning news site, Clark County Today, three Republican lawmakers in Washington state—including Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler—voiced renewed skepticism.

“This same stubborn, top-down attitude effectively killed the last I-5 bridge replacement effort,” Herrera Beutler said. “We need agreement on both sides of the river for this project to succeed and truly serve our region.”

Light rail opponents in Clark County pulled the plug on the $175 million Columbia River Crossing in 2013.

“As someone who opposed the failed [CRC] project because it became more about extending light rail and less about reducing freeway congestion and increasing freight mobility,” said state Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), “I believe it would be foolish to go down that road again.”

Blumenauer tells WW: “I support the regional leaders and process to replace the bridge and incorporate high-capacity transit. For me, light rail would be the preferred option because the Biden administration and our leadership in Congress are focused on equity and climate concerns. I have confidence that the region will make the right decision for our future.”

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