Wheeler: I-5 bridge financing would face several difficult hurdles
By Andy Giegerich
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler suggested state lawmakers still hoping to back a new Interstate 5 bridge remain cautious.
Oregon's treasurer said Thursday afternoon that financing for a revamped Columbia River Crossing proposal shouldn't emerge until several imposing hurdles are overcome.
Ted Wheeler, in a letter to legislative leaders Rep. Tina Kotek and Sen. Peter Courtney, said construction bonds "cannot and should not be approved and funds should not be expended until all requirements" spelled out in his missive are met.
Primarily, Oregon should have full governance over any tolls collected for the structure, which would connect the state with Washington via Interstate 5.
"Under an Oregon-led scenario, Oregon would be responsible for the collection of tolls, so I cannot overstate the importance of a legally enforceable tolling agreement with Washington that includes clear authority for Oregon to establish tolls, surcharges and late fees over the life of the bonds," Wheeler wrote.
"These agreements must withstand economic and political changes over three decades. These provisions must be satisfied before an Oregon-led project could be considered financially viable."
Those conditions include:
- "An executed, toll collection reciprocity agreement that ensures that tolls, surcharges and any associated late payment fees and penalties incurred by Washington drivers who use the new bridge will be collected in full on Oregon’s behalf by the State of Washington." The agreement would allow Washington to be consulted as to toll rates but Oregon’s Transportation Commission would hold unilateral authority over the setting of future tolling rates.
- An executed agreement with the State of Washington authorizing the construction of bridge, rail and interchange improvements related to the project within Washington's borders.
- A dedicated source of annual funds to pay for expanded light rail service into Vancouver.
- A bridge permit from the United States Coast Guard for the new bridge at the currently proposed bridge height over the main channel of the Columbia River.
- An $850 million grant through the Federal Transportation Administration to finance the light rail components of the project.
- A $900 million TIFIA loan from the Federal Highway Administration, which would be repaid over the next several decades with toll revenue generated by the project.
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