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Columbia bridge still needed

Five years after plans for a new Columbia River bridge on Interstate 5 collapsed amid bickering between Oregon and Washington, the state’s governors have vowed to restart the project. That’s a needed move, and leaders on both sides of the river should endeavor to avoid the missteps that plagued the Columbia River Crossing project.

The need is undeniable. Interstate 5 is the primary West Coast artery, carrying vital freight traffic as well as automobiles. The existing drawbridge is a choke point, creating a dangerous bottleneck at high-traffic times. It’s also poses a seismic risk.

The project won’t be cheap, but political obstacles could well be more formidable than the financial one. The Columbia River Crossing project was shot down in 2014 by Washington state lawmakers who objected to tolls and plans to extend Portland’s light-rail system to Vancouver. Other opponents included environmental groups who objected to a project they saw as encouraging motor vehicle traffic.

But like it or not, motor vehicles aren’t going away anytime soon, and traffic jams only increase the pollution generated by idling engines. Light rail would offer a more efficient alternative to motor vehicles.

Govs. Kate Brown and Jay Inslee said Monday they think the project can become a reality this time. A report on how to revive the project is expected a year from now.

This might not sound like a concern for Southern Oregon, but the efficient movement of freight on Interstate 5 affects shippers and consumers here. It’s time to restart the project.

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