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U.S. House passes Herrera Beutler-Walden-Blumenauer proposal to help improve roads and bridges in Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

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Washington, DC, November 3, 2015 | comments
The U.S. House today passed a bipartisan proposal offered by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Camas) and Oregon Reps. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to help improve roads and bridges in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
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The U.S. House today passed a bipartisan proposal offered by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Camas) and Oregon Reps. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to help improve roads and bridges in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The proposal, which was attached to a long-term, bipartisan transportation bill in the House, ensures that projects within national scenic areas (NSA's), including the Columbia River Gorge NSA, are eligible for federal transportation grants to help them serve the needs of their local economies, residents, and visitors.

“I’m pleased to join Congressman Walden in improving the transportation bill to allow the bridges within the Columbia River Gorge to compete for federal grants. These bridges are crucial to the residents and economies of Skamania and Klickitat Counties,” said Herrera Beutler. “In 2013, when the Bridge of the Gods was in need of repairs, one of the largest employers in Skamania County had to relocate part of their operations just to transport their goods across the river, and the safety of residents was impacted because large emergency vehicles could not cross the bridge. Though we found a short-term solution in that instance, it revealed the need to strengthen our local roads and bridges for years to come.”

"While scenic areas like the Columbia Gorge provide tourist opportunities to thousands of visiting Americans from all across the country, this unique federal involvement provides distinct challenges in promoting growth of the local economy while conserving the natural beauty of the lands within the Gorge. Transportation infrastructure is an essential component to efficiently serve the interests of both local residents and visitors to the Scenic Area, and there is a strong need for regional transportation planning and improvement to major transportation elements,” Walden said during debate on the House floor.

“This includes bridges like the Hood River Bridge and the Bridge of the Gods. While approximately 5.2 million vehicles and $110 million in goods travel across these bridges each year, they are in need of major improvements.  Clarifying the eligibility of Scenic Areas throughout the nation for transportation grant funding would help ensure these areas are eligible for meaningful funding opportunities to enhance infrastructure within these unique federally managed areas.”

“The Columbia River Gorge is one of the great places in America. Its beauty shouldn’t obscure its critical role in the economic vitality of the Pacific Northwest – a key freight corridor for goods moving by rail, barge, and truck,” said Blumenauer. “Our bipartisan amendment recognizes that done right, freight projects in National Scenic Areas should be eligible for much needed federal funding.”

There are currently 12 NSA's in eight states across the nation, including the Columbia Gorge NSA—the largest in the country. The Columbia River Gorge NSA consists of 292,500 acres along 85 miles of the Columbia River. Ninety percent of the total NSA is subject to strict land use and development restrictions, which has posed a distinct challenge to promoting the local economy, while providing opportunities for tourists to visit from around the country, and conserving the natural beauty of the Columbia Gorge.

The amendment was included in Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (H.R. 3763), a bipartisan, long-term surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs.

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