In a keynote address Monday to the Oregon Leadership Summit, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will push for a major transportation and infrastructure package in 2009. “Today I’m issuing a call to arms to Oregon’s business community — put transportation at the top of your agenda for 2009, make your voices heard in Salem, work across party lines and regions, and don’t lose sight of the big picture,” he said Monday.The state’s transportation system is on the brink of a crisis, the governor said, adding that he will work hard to implement a long-term fix in 2009, the next time the Legislature meets.Kulongoski said any solution will require new revenues.“I don’t, for example, believe that a gas tax is the only way to go,” he said. “There are other choices. But I do believe that everything — including a gas tax — must be on the table.”The state’s most pressing problem, according to the governor, is the bottleneck created by the bridge used to carry Interstate 5 over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.Kulongoski said he favors construction of a new crossing to replace the two existing bridges, built in 1917 and 1958. Such a project could cost more than $4 billion.While the bridge is important to the economy of the two states and region, it is also vital to the national economy and should be funded accordingly, he said.“Both Oregon and Washington must provide funding for this critical project. But the Interstate Bridge is not just a regional problem,” he said. “It is not even just a West Coast problem. It is a national problem that is a drag on the entire American economy. As such, replacing the Interstate Bridge requires a national solution. Remember the bridge to nowhere? This is just the opposite.”
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