Rep. Greg Walden met with Port of Hood River officials Feb. 11 to get an update on the port’s current and upcoming projects, including the status of the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement Project.
The informal meeting was a chance for the port to brief Walden on the project’s status, and to get advice on avenues they can explore to find federal funding and to possibly expedite the process.
Walden expressed support for the project and commented on the necessity of a working bridge for this area of the Gorge.
“This (the bridge) is an essential piece of infrastructure,” said Commissioner Brian Shortt, adding that, considering the dynamics of support for this project and the failing state of the current bridge, “It (the project) deserves to be expedited.”
Walden said that one of the port’s biggest assets going forward is the unified support backing the project.
“When you’re divided, it makes it so much harder to sell something in (Washington) D.C.,” he said.
The port didn’t present Walden with a specific financial ask, but said that their next hurdle is funding the transition period between the end of the NEPA process and construction — approximately $20 million, said Executive Director Michael McElwee. He asked what forms of federal funding would be available to them.
Walden pointed to an appropriations bill being considered in the current session, but said, “If there’s a financial ask for the appropriations bill, you need to submit it now.” He offered help from his office in making that happen. The fact that the bridge is in a National Scenic Area could potentially open up other funding options, he said.
The port didn’t decide on a next step, but Project Director Kevin Greenwood said that he will attempt to get staff members from each of the region’s government representatives together sometime in late March to discuss the project.
Walden will hold town halls in the Gorge March 15. The day will begin with a town hall at 8:30 a.m. at the Hood River Armory, 1590 12th St., Hood River, followed by one in The Dalles at 11:15 a.m. at the Civic Auditorium, 323 E. 4th St.