VANCOUVER, Wash. — Five years ago, the Columbia River Crossing was a failed $175-million research project that didn't gain a majority of support in Olympia when Republican Washington lawmakers backed away after years of planning.
On Tuesday, both sides of the aisle from both states came together for a new approach at completing the contentious decades-long project.
Three years ago, lawmakers went back to the table to look for a solution and last year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directed funding to support a committee to look at and take inventory of past failures and come up with a new plan. That committee involved working with Oregon lawmakers in a bi-state effort.
"We needed to start from a place of agreement of consensus. We dug in, set about that very hard work of building consensus. It's not easy, difficult work. We stayed engaged and stayed at the table," said Washington state senator Annette Cleveland. "We were able to agree on a goal, on next steps, principles and that resulted in legislation that we passed in 2017 and been in the midst of implementing since that time."
This time around, support comes from both sides of the aisle.
"This is a completely new plan. The CRC no longer has federal funding, no longer has support of our two states. Doesn't have funding available. So this is a redo," Cleveland said.
Drivers say the new bridge can't come fast enough.
"The bridge is long overdue," said Ed Mahn from Vancouver. "I think it causes congestion. I think it affects the lifestyle for the people that have to commute back and forth. I think it affects the economic viability of Southwest Washington and Oregon."
"For years it's just been too crowded. It needs to be fixed. Traffic sucks. Everybody's moving up here from California or wherever. It needs to be widened or a new bridge put up," said Milo Mainella, who uses the bridge often.
With that said, Mainella isn't getting her hopes up.
"I don't think the bridge is ever going to get fixed," she said.
That's where lawmakers hope to prove doubters wrong this time.
"That's why I'm so excited about this effort. We're setting ourselves up very well for getting to that final goal: a new bridge that's going to serve generations to come." Cleveland said.