LOS ANGELES — Oregon and Washington couldn't bridge their differences, bringing an end to plans for a modern crossing of the Columbia River.
Oregon lawmakers adjourned their 2014 legislative session on Friday, pulling the plug on the multi-billion dollar Columbia River Crossing project.
By failing to reinstate construction funds to replace bridges over the Columbia River, the state legislature effectively put an end to the $2.8 billion project.
Lawmakers did authorize more than $5 billion of debt for projects in Oregon.
Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a letter to the state's legislative leaders in January that if the legislature did not take action on the project during the session, he would shelve the plan in March.
After the legislature adjourned, the Oregon Department of Transportation officially announced the end of the project.
"We have the fiduciary responsibility to close out the project in a systematic, retrievable manner in order to adequately preserve a decade of research, environmental reviews, community involvement, and detailed engineering work for potential future use," ODOT director Matthew Garrett said. "We will archive work products according to Oregon record retention requirements."
The project will shut down completely by May 31, he said.
The Columbia River Crossing project, which aimed to replace the existing Interstate 5 bridges over the Columbia River, is shuttering its doors after spending millions of federal dollars on decades of planning.
The project faced many challenges over the years, including last year when Washington lawmakers declined to authorize their contribution of matching funds for the venture.
Oregon still planned to continue on its own with the project, eliminating the need for an immediate contribution from Washington by getting rid of planned improvements on the Washington side of the river.
However, the plan still needed an agreement with Washington for bi-state construction.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland one of the project's main supporters, praised the Oregon House of Representatives for addressing the weakness in Oregon's transportation system saying they stood ready to act on the Oregon-led plan.
"In the end, however, Washington again failed to step up," Kotek said in a statement on Friday. "Even though a majority of Washington legislators signed a letter of support, action was required by Governor Jay Inslee to move forward. Absent clear, public commitment from Governor Inslee and the necessary memoranda of understanding between our two states, an Oregon-led project will not be approved this year."
For now, the existing Interstate Bridge, with one 97-year-old span and another 57-year-old span, will soldier on. They are drawbridges, meaning I-5 traffic must halt for ship traffic on the Columbia.
While the legislature did not reauthorize funds for a bridge, it did pass Senate Bill 5703, which authorizes around $5.2 billion in bond issuances.
About $3.3 billion of that amount is revenue bonds, and $1.9 billion general obligation bonds.
The largest authorization was a $161.5 million GO bond for the Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Institute. The funds will help match a private contribution of $500 million to establish a world-class treatment and research facility.
Proponents of the OHSU funding request expect the proceeds will help advance efforts to improve care for cancer patients and advance the fight against many types of cancer.
"With a project of this scale, Oregonians expect the legislature to watch carefully to ensure the money is spent efficiently," said Kotek, who led the drive to include in the authorization a number of criteria to ensure the construction moves forward only after meeting certain requirements. "The OHSU cancer center could take us leaps and bounds forward in the fight against cancer."
Other projects slated for authorization include health and safety projects at Oregon universities and investments to support the expansion of higher education in central Oregon.
Projects include those for the University of Oregon, Oregon State University Cascade Campus, Southern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon University, and Central Oregon Community College.