Replacing the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River is our biggest opportunity to create thousands of Oregon jobs in the near term and to enhance our export-based economy as a job engine well into the future.  Underscoring that point, the Oregon House passed HB 2800 last week on a 46-10 vote to authorize Oregon’s share of the funding and to build in investment safeguards.

As HB 2800 moves to the Senate, policymakers have the opportunity to create 4,000 jobs annually by 2030 as a result of the increased flow of people and goods in our region, and thousands of construction jobs in the near term, where workers have seen unemployment rates of 25-35% for the past four years.

Beyond jobs, replacing the bridge addresses a range of other vital issues, from traffic safety to the seismic vulnerability of the present bridge to the importance of improving local and interstate commerce flow at what is now the greatest bottleneck on all of Interstate 5.

HB 2800 is also a great investment.  It leverages only 1/10th of 1% of Oregon’s annual transportation dollars ($28 million per year out of Oregon’s annual transportation budget of $2.5 billion) to receive a new $3.5 billion bridge with billions in outside funding that will relieve congestion, improve safety, ease freight movement, and withstand earthquakes.

Without a new bridge, the cost of truck delay on I-5 will increase by 140 percent to nearly $34 million by 2030, and the bridge will be rendered completely inoperable in the event of a major earthquake.

We’ve been talking about building this bridge for nearly two decades.  The time for talk is over.