I-5 bridge replacement bill signed into law
 
Oregon Governor Kitzhaber has signed into law a bill (HB 2800) that provides $450 million in funding for the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project. After more than a decade of planning, the Oregon legislature moved quickly to deliver a funding bill to the Governor for review and approval.  The state’s contribution of $450 million in proceeds from bonds will help leverage over $2 billion in additional resources to build a project that is critical to the state’s economic vitality.
 
“These bridges need to be replaced with safe, modern, multimodal, seismically sound spans if we want to continue the vitality of our trade dependent economy,” Kitzhaber said in signing the bill.  “This year we’ve reached a point of urgency and opportunity . . . We have in place all the federal partners we need to secure a significant amount of federal resources if the State of Oregon and the State of Washington demonstrate their commitment to this project by allocating funds.”  A video of the signing ceremony is available online.
 
House Bill 2800 includes several “triggers” or safeguards that place conditions on the release of Oregon’s funding. These triggers include that Washington must commit its state funding contribution; the Oregon State Treasurer will review traffic and revenue projections produced through the Investment Grade Analysis and the project’s finance plan; the project must receive a bridge permit from the U.S. Coast Guard; and the Federal Transit Administration must submit a New Starts grant for $850 million for congressional review.
 
The project recently moved another step toward receiving its New Starts funding.  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s FY 2014 budget proposes providing the project $65 million in funding next year, demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to the project.
 
How will the project affect funding for other projects?

Paying the principal and interest on the bonds will cost about $27.6 million per year for 30 years.  The legislation commits Oregon to funding the project from existing resources until and if new transportation funds are identified. If the conditions in the bill for issuance of the bonds are met, legislators will have until 2015 to pass a funding package that would adopt new revenue to cover the I-5 bridge project.
 
Through 2015, ODOT will apply unanticipated federal funds provided due to congressional passage of the federal surface transportation authorization act (MAP-21).  This legislation increased Oregon’s share of federal highway formula funds, providing ODOT additional federal resources that are available to cover the debt service on the project through 2015.  As a result, no project that currently has funding allocated to it will be affected.
 
If no new revenue is provided by the Legislature, in 2016 and beyond ODOT would cover debt service with federal highway formula funds that would otherwise be available for transportation projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
 
Independent toll analysis yields preliminary toll fund capacity estimate for I-5 bridge
 
As part of the project’s ongoing investment grade traffic and toll revenue study, a preliminary toll funding capacity analysis was delivered to the Oregon and Washington state legislatures in late February. The analysis validated the $900 million - $1.3 billion range of tolling funds that were identified in the final Environmental Impact Statement. The updated range of $1.07 - $1.75 billion indicates additional funding could be available. The estimate range will be refined over the course of the investment grade analysis process.
 
This updated toll capacity range takes into account a range of current population and employment forecasts, is based on updated models calibrated by a 2011 travel behavior study and travel cost factors, and assumes current financing structures and assumptions which have been updated since a 2009-10 tolling study. Future analyses are anticipated in summer and fall 2013.
 
The preliminary toll funds estimate report is available on the project’s website.