By Brittany Bagent, Director of Strategy, CREDC
On behalf of the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC), I joined the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) in Washington D.C. to discuss priority issues with Southwest Washington’s and Oregon’s congressional delegation and members of the Trump Administration. CREDC participated in the trip to represent Southwest Washington’s interests and CREDC’s legislative priorities, including underlining the importance of advancing efforts to replace the Interstate 5 (I-5) bridge across the Columbia River.
Aligned with the Clark County Comprehensive Economic Development Plan, CREDC’s vision is for the county to be one of the most inclusive, healthy and amenity-rich communities in the country. To accomplish this vision, it’s critical that our transportation infrastructure accommodates immediate needs while setting the region up to support the rapid growth we continue to experience.
As we’ve said before, we are mobilizing our network of more than 150 business leaders and strategic partners—in Clark County and across the Columbia River—to support a bridge project that provides a long-term solution to the mobility needs of Clark County, the metropolitan region and the entire West Coast.
Key Takeaways from D.C.
We covered several challenges and opportunities facing Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, including infrastructure and transportation, free trade, affordable housing and homelessness. In addition to over a dozen formal meetings, the group prioritized time to engage with one another to identify opportunities for future collaboration. On behalf of our Clark County business community, I reaffirmed the critical need to replace the existing I-5 bridge, which connects Southwest Washington to Oregon and the rest of the West Coast. Participants, both those who were engaged with the prior project and those new to the region, reinforced the understanding that the time to replace the bridge is now. Overall, we saw that momentum for the project is moving quickly, with a staffer from Washington Representative Herrera Beutler’s office sharing that new constituents meet with him at least bi-weekly to discuss the bridge. At the federal level, Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray and Representative Herrera Beutler have signaled their support.
Back at home, we are energized by the leadership from Governor Jay Inslee and our Southwest Washington State delegation as they prioritize infrastructure investments to fund an I-5 bridge project office that will, among other things, help define a new project scope and re-establish vital partnerships that will lay the groundwork to ensure long-term success. Most recently, Governor Kate Brown voiced her support as well, stating that Oregon needs to accelerate plans to replace the bridge. Echoing what we shared and heard in D.C., we strongly believe the time is now to resume efforts to replace the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River and are confident we have the right people in place to identify a solution that will strengthen our economic advantage on a regional, national and global scale.
Outcomes and Next Steps
The strong momentum is evident in D.C. and was reinforced by the senators and representatives, who were encouraged that business communities collectively are using our voices to support and educate on this key issue. In a world where it is often much easier to argue against something rather than advocate for something, we must stand in alliance to support the good policy work being done to prioritize infrastructure and economic development investments.
Motivated by the delegation’s strong chemistry and momentum, we plan to work together with PBA to convene further conversations between our respective investors and member participants back in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, last year CREDC formed the I-5 Bridge Replacement Task Force made up of business and public sector leaders across the county who are convening dialogue and coalescing the voice of the business community. The Task Force is co-chaired by CREDC Board Directors Steve Horenstein of Horenstein Law Group and Page Phillips Strickler of Strategies 360. Next, the Task Force will soon release a survey seeking feedback from CREDC investors and stakeholders about their priorities and values in our bi-state transportation infrastructure.
Our thanks to PBA for its partnership in reaching out to our region’s Members of Congress on the importance of advancing infrastructure solutions along the I-5 corridor as it traverses our bi-state region. We value the partnership and will continue to work together as critical initiatives move forward. CREDC will amplify the benefits of this annual trip to encourage additional Southwest Washington stakeholders to attend in 2020.