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Bridge could be named in Oke’s honor

A bill expressing support for naming the Tacoma Narrows Bridge after the late Sen. Bob Oke was introduced in the Washington State Legislature this week.

“Bob Oke’s vision and tenacity made possible the construction of a new Tacoma Narrows bridge that will serve the residents of his district and the entire state of Washington for generations,” states the bill, which is officially named Senate Joint Memorial 8026.

The bill was read Jan. 17 and has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

“I certainly thought it was an appropriate acknowledgement of Sen. Oke’s long service to the com-munity,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, (D-Gig Harbor), who took over Oke’s seat in the 26th District and is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Regardless of your feelings about the bridge — and there are a lot of people with negative feelings about the bridge — it is hard not to acknowledge (his) commitment to seeing that bridge built.”

If the bill passes, however, Kilmer said “it would really be a recommendation, and (serves) to convey the feelings of the Legislature.

“Which,” he said, “is why it states ‘your Memorialists respectfully pray that the Washington State Transportation Commission name the new Tacoma Narrows bridge the Bob Oke bridge.’”

Reema Griffith, executive director of the commission, confirmed that deciding whether to name the bridge after Oke is ultimately up to the commission.

According to the commission’s Facility Naming Policy, the process to name a state structure such as a highway, rest area, ferry terminal or bridge, can be initiated by “the Legislature, the Washington State Department of Transportation, state and local governmental entities, citizen organizations, (or) any person.”

If the process is started without a legislative Joint Memorial, Griffith said whomever suggests it must show there is “substantial community support for such naming.”

If the process is initiated by a Joint Memorial, however, she said that usually indicates the necessary community support.

“I don’t know if the commission has ever rejected a naming request that came from the Legislature,” she said.

In addition to recognizing his work toward building a second TNB, the bill notes he “served the 26th District with integrity, honor and dignity throughout his 16 years of service.”

Oke died last summer, one month before the bridge opened, following a three-year fight against a rare form of blood cancer.

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