While hard to imagine that a decade-old project that has already cost taxpayers $170 million could just get terminated, it happened over the weekend as Washington lawmakers failed to pass a budget that included more funding for the Columbia River Crossing, a $3.4 billion project to replace the Interstate 5 bridge connecting Portland, Ore., with Vancouver, Wash. The lack of funding collapsed the bridge project.
Done. Just like that.
All the pre-planning and meetings that went into the project: useless. The squabble over bridge design that forced a second pass: pointless. The on-the-ground pre-construction work: worthless. The millions spent on the project: wasted. This project is over.
As the Washington Legislature faced a July 1 deadline to agree on a new state budget or enter into a government shutdown, a $10 billion transportation package that included needed funding to keep the Columbia River Crossing project alive couldn’t muster support. Without funding from Washington, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber ended the two-state agreement, cancelling the project.
Washington Republicans long contended that the proposed new bridge—the basic design to replace the current two bridges (four total lanes) over the river came after worries surfaced that an original design wasn’t feasible—should not contain light rail. Democrats and Oregonians called the light rail a necessary addition.
The light rail contention, along with a gargantuan price tag in a world of tight budgets, was enough to end the debate in Washington. Oregon was forced to follow suit and now, as The Oregonian reports, 96 government workers and consultants in a Vancouver office will close up shop and find new projects. But they won’t be projects about a new bridge over the Columbia. The only way that would ever happen is in the form of an entirely new project. And that’s just not in the budget.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He has also written for TIME, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.