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The collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington highlights the need to invest more in transportation infrastructure, say supporters of the Columbia River Crossing project.

"We're glad no one appears to have been seriously hurt, but it shows the need to invest in our transportation infrastructure, like the I-5 bridge over the Columbia," says Portland Business Alliance official Megan Doern, a spokesperson for the Columbia River Crossing Coalition, which supports the project.

A section of the Skagit River bridge collapsed around 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23, reportedly because a large truck struck a support beam while crossing it. The Washington Legislature is in a special session considering whether to approve that state's $450 million of the $3.5 billion Columbia River bridge replacement and freeway improvement project.

Doern says it is too early to know what effect the Skagit River bridge collapse will have on the Washington Legislature's deliberations. But she noted one of the two Columbia River bridge spans is older than the Skagit River bridge, which opened in 1955. The first span of the Columbia Rover bridge opened in 1917. The second span opened in 1958, just four years after the Skagit River bridge.

"The Columbia River bridge is also on wood pilings that could be damaged in an earthquake," Doern noted.

The Skagit River bridge is classified as "functionally obsolete" but was considered safe by transportation officials. The same is true for the Columbia River bridge. It was inspected last summer.

The Columbia River Crossing project would replace the existing I-5 bridge with a new, wider span that would include a light rail line and improve bicycle and pedestrian access between Portland and Vancouver. The 2013 Oregon Legislature approved $450 million as the state's share of the project. The Washington Legislature must approved its share to secure the additional federal funds needed to complete the project.

The Columbia River Crossing Coalition is comprised of hundreds of business and labor leaders and organizations in Oregon and Washington.

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