SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon has agreed to pay nearly $90 million to three manufacturers along the Columbia River if a proposed bridge restricts the size of products they can ship, according to documents the state Department of Transportation released Friday.
The cost is not included in the project's advertised price tag, which started at $3.4 billion but was scaled back to $2.75 billion after Washington lawmakers failed to contribute.
"We fully disclosed that as we went forward and acknowledged that a separate funding plan would be necessary if mitigation agreements reached success," said Kris Strickler, director of the Columbia River Crossing project.
The project would replace several miles of Interstate 5, including the bridge between Oregon and Washington, and extend Portland's light rail system into Vancouver.
Without money from Washington, proponents are now trying to convince Oregon lawmakers to approve a scaled-back plan that would stop at State Route 14 at the bridge's northern end. Freeway improvements farther north would be halted unless Washington comes up with funding at a future date.
The existing bridge has a section that lifts to allow taller river traffic to pass underneath. The maximum height of the proposed replacement would be too short for three manufacturers upstream to transport some of their products. All three signed mitigation agreements, two in May and one on Thursday.
Under the agreements, the State of Oregon would pay $12 million to Oregon Ironworks, $25 million to Greenberry Industrial and $50 million Thompson Metal Fab if the bridge is built.
The Washington State Department of Transportation signed the agreements with Oregon Ironworks and Greenberry Industrial but is not obligated to pay them since the Legislature did not approve project funding, said Patrick Cooney, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Project backers hope the U.S. Coast Guard will decide by Sept. 30 whether to issue a bridge permit. The mitigation agreements are a key precursor to Coast Guard approval, said Mandy Putney, a spokeswoman for the project.
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