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Bridge Repairs

Find a way to shore up funding

We tend to take bridges for granted. Whatever gets us over the river or across the railroad tracks below is just part of our quick trip from one place to another.

Perhaps it is because something is so important that we tend to overlook it. But something major is in the works on a critical transportation link in the mid-Columbia: the federally-funded redecking project on the Hood River tollbridge. The Port of Hood River has been doing an admirable job of preparing the community for the $1.35 million project, due to start in early 2004. The Port announced it in early 2003, and included another preview of the work in the Summer 2003 Port newsletter.

Bridge redecking will include road and support beam replacement, new guardrails and utility line relocation. The new deck will be safer to drive on, less noisy, and last for another 20 years, according to the Port. The project will be funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

What is less clear is the fate of hundreds of other deteriorating highway bridges around the state, including some in Hood River County. The Legislature, including Sen. Rick Metsger, has devoted extensive attention this session to what is a public safety and economic development concern. House Bill 2041, which would create a $2.5 million funding package, calls for increased vehicle registration and title fees, mixed with the sale of state bonds, as a way to shore up some 500 cracked and load-limited bridges around the state. But a crack has appeared in the bridge repair legislation. House Bill 2041 was returned to committee this week over some legislators’ concerns over a clause that would allow income taxes generated by the proposal to be “captured” for specific uses, including up to $3 million each year for a tax credit for truckers who buy cleaner engines.

Legislators need to be sensitive to industry concerns as they continue negotiations, but truckers need to remember that fixing bridges is in everyone’s interest including their own.

It would be a shame to nickel-and-dime away a proposal that would meet one of the state’s most critical needs.

Some give and take is in order to finally roll out what could become one of the 2003 session’s few distinct success stories.

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