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Business and community leaders urge for a phased option to build I-5 Bridge

For more information, contact:
Megan Doern, 503-552-6754

August 7, 2013

Dear Governors Kitzhaber and Inslee,

First, we want to thank you both for your continued leadership on the bi-state efforts to replace the old, inadequate and unsafe I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River. With 15 years of local and community efforts, your state leadership, and Senator Murray’s active engagement at the federal level, we have produced a bi-state project that is construction-ready.  However, even with the strength of your leadership and support, we recognize that the long list of competing state priorities and limited resources you both face makes moving any project forward challenging.

As individuals and organizations who have been engaged as volunteers and community leaders - some of us for more than a decade - in developing the proposal to replace the I-5 Bridge, extend light rail to Clark College and improve interchanges on both sides of the river, we are asking you to continue your bi-state leadership to keep the project moving forward on budget and on schedule.

Our federal partners are well aware of the economic imperative to the nation and the west coast to fix this major freight bottleneck over the river.  But the I-5 Bridge over the Columbia River is more than just a national or West Coast freight bottleneck.  For the city of Vancouver and the state of Oregon, this project is our economic lifeline to a future of possibilities. Without it we are hamstrung at every turn - and our region will be trapped by traffic.  Retaining businesses that depend on freight movements will be difficult, recruiting new businesses and industry will be next to impossible.  Businesses, and the communities that depend on them throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, will be faced with making difficult choices as their costs go up and their ability to compete nationally and globally diminishes. Without this investment, Southwest Washington and Oregon’s future will be limited.

We feel strongly that while there is still a window of time to receive federal support, we cannot afford to walk away from thousands of hours of public involvement and community leadership on both sides of the river, reams of technical data, a completed federal environmental review process, and an investment of $175 million taxpayer dollars, without exhausting every possibility.

As you both acknowledged in your statements after the failure of the Washington Senate to vote on a transportation funding package, the need still exists and our bi-state collaboration would continue, but future options must be different recognizing the lack of action from the Washington Legislature.

We are writing today about a phased option that we believe deserves a broader, deeper and expedited review.  In preliminary discussions with agency staff, we found this option appealing. It recognizes the fiscal realities, takes advantage of the years of technical work, permits and financial investments, and could get the bridge and light rail built on budget and schedule without requiring new gas taxes in Washington.

This phased option replaces the bridge, connects light rail, and improves Hayden Island and Marine Drive interchanges in Oregon.  Without Washington state funds, the Washington roadway and interchange improvements will be phased in when Washington funding becomes available.

The estimated cost of this phased option would be about $2.75 billion. Federal partners would continue to pay for light rail, bridge users (tolls) would pay for the replacement bridge, landings and improvements to Washington’s SR 14, and Oregon’s state funds would improve Oregon’s Hayden Island and Marine Drive interchanges.

We recognize that the phased option will require a new flexibility from federal, state and local agencies, some modified roles and responsibilities from project partners, and expedited state(s) administrative and legal review. It will require an even greater level of bi-state collaboration, partnership and leadership in a very short timeframe.  It also will require extensive financial vetting, review, and risk analysis by both states.

We understand that building any project of this size is complex but we find this phased approach appealing because of its focus and simplicity.  It fixes the bridge, takes advantage of work to date, responds to limited funds, does not require new taxes and could keep the project on schedule.

There is urgency behind this request.  As you both well know, our federal partners have made it clear over and over again that there are other national-priority, shovel-ready projects in the queue ready to take our place for funding if we don’t act in 2013.  And, on September 30, Oregon’s commitment to funds will expire without further action.

As governors who share a commitment to replacing the old, seismically vulnerable and unsafe I-5 Bridge that connect our two states, we hope you both will continue your bi-state leadership and consider deploying your administrations to conduct the necessary administrative, legal and financial reviews to determine the viability of this phased option.  And, that these reviews are conducted with an intensity and urgency that recognizes time is running out.

Sincerely,

John Carter, Chairman, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. and Chair, Oregon Business Plan

Neil J. Nelson, Chairman of the Board, Associated Oregon Industries

Gregg Kantor, Chair, Portland Business Alliance

Duncan Wyse, President, Oregon Business Council

Bill Furman, CEO & President, The Greenbrier Companies

Ann Lininger, Vice President and General Counsel, Oregon Iron Works

Tom Chamberlain, President, Oregon AFL-CIO Bill Wyatt, Executive Director, Port of Portland

Sandra McDonough, President & CEO, Portland Business Alliance

Kristin Meira, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

John Mohlis, Executive Secretary, Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council

Kelly Parker, President & CEO, Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce

Jim Piro, President & CEO, Portland General Electric

Gary Young, Business Manager/Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 48

Mike Salsgiver, Executive Director, AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter

Mark Landauer, Executive Director, Oregon Public Ports Association

Lisa Nisenfeld, President, Columbia River Economic Development Council

Ryan Deckert, President, Oregon Business Association Paul Montague, President, Identity Clark County Melinda Merrill, Director of Public Affairs, Fred Meyer

Jonathan Avery, Chief Administrative Officer, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center

Lori J. Morgan, MD, MBA, Chief Administrative Officer, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center David Myers, Executive Secretary, Washington State Building and Construction

Trades Council Henry H. Hewitt, STOEL RIVES LLP

Jill Eiland, NW Region Corporate Affairs Manager, Intel

John B. Rudi, President, Thompson Metal Fab, Inc.

Shannon Walker, President, SW Washington Labor Council

Jody Campbell, Director/Owner, The Columbian

David Koch, Chief Executive Officer, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay

Scott Campbell, Owner/Publisher, The Columbian

Rhona Sen Hoss, Citizen

John Deeder, Superintendent, Evergreen Public Schools

Steve Horenstein, Horenstein Law Group

Elie Kassab, Owner, Prestige Development

Winston Asai, VP-Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Columbia Machine, Inc. Eric Sawyer, Area Manager, BBSI

Gary Neal, General Manager, Port of Morrow

Peter Allen, Vancouver Citizen

Scot Walstra, Vice President, Cowlitz County Economic Development Council

Brian Wolfe, Attorney at Law

Ryan Palmer, Downtown Vancouver Small Business Owner

Robert M. Byrd, President, Pacific Die Casting

Joey Fuerstenberg, CM, Certified Memorialist, Vancouver Granite Works, Inc. John D. White, Citizen

Royce Pollard, Former Mayor, City of Vancouver

Kim J. Capeloto, Executive Vice President, Riverview Community Bank

Scott Horenstein, Attorney at Law

Lance Killian, Killian Pacific

David Groth, Appraisal & Consulting Group, LLC

David Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, Rebound Orthopedics & Neurosurgery

Ginger Metcalf, Consultant and Vancouver Citizen

Eric Fuller, President, Eric Fuller & Associates, Inc.

Paul Christensen, Chairman of the Board, Realvest Corporation

Tim Schauer, President/CEO, MacKay Spositio

Ed Lynch, Ed Lynch Company

Rich Brown, Senior Vice President, Bank of America

Arch Miller. President & CEO, International Air Academy, Inc. Ron Arp, Amplify Group, Inc.

Brad Carlson, Owner, Evergreen Memorial Gardens

Mark Feichtinger, Citizen

Don Russo, Attorney, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt Jane Jacobsen, Executive Director, Confluence Project Mary B. Meyers, Owner, Thresholds, Inc.

Tonya Rulli, Tonya Rulli Law Firm Noland Hoshino, Co-Founder, [B]cause Tim Kraft, PE, Principle, OTAK, Inc.

Gary Eichman, President, Oregon Transfer

Robert Parker, Citizen

Eric Olmsted, Owner, On-Line Support Richard Pokornowski, Vancouver Resident Nancy Baker, Vancouver Resident

Karen A Ciocia, Vancouver Resident Ray Barney, Vancouver Resident Marsha Manning, Vancouver Resident

Linda McLain, Downtown Vancouver Business Owner

Sharon Lewis, Owner, Columbia Vista

Craig Boretz, Vice President for Development, Con-Way

Tom Mears, Chairman, The Holland Inc./Burgerville

Marty Myers, General Manager, Threemile Canyon Farms, LLC