House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to sit down with Washington lawmakers before the end of the year with a simple goal: Talk about meeting again sometime in 2019 to discuss replacing the Interstate Bridge.
"I know that might seem like a low bar," Kotek said about talking about talking, "but that will get us started."
The Portland Democrat spoke Wednesday at a transportation forum in North Portland, saying she welcomes a renewed commitment from Washington legislators who appear ready to start talking about replacing the Interstate 5 bridge connecting the two states.
Washington politicians' change of heart comes five years after their state declined to pay for its share of the controversial Columbia River Crossing Project. Washington's Legislature in 2017 backed a study to investigate what pieces of the failed CRC project were still salvageable.
Kotek is the latest Oregon leader to publicly say they're ready to sit down and talk about how to replace the aging Columbia River span -- the only drawbridge on the entire stretch of I-5 in Oregon, Washington and California.
In August, the Vancouver City Council unanimously threw its support behind an effort to restart discussions about building a new bridge with "high-capacity transit" included. That action drew Senate President Peter Courtney to say the two states "need to put the history on this project behind us and begin working together toward the future once again."
Gov. Kate Brown told The Oregonian/OregonLive this month she was "encouraged" Washington wanted to start "constructive conversations on this vital piece of transportation infrastructure."
Kotek said starting discussions "isn't resetting the CRC." She views it as getting back to the negotiating table.
She also wants the I-5 bridge talks to be tied to another controversial big-picture transportation issue: Tolling sections of Interstates 5 and 205.
Kotek urged the crowd to stay involved in the bridge and tolling discussions, which will be ongoing for years.
"It's coming people," Kotek said. "Tolling is coming to our area, and I think you all know it."