Recognizing that needed improvements remain unaddressed, Washington and Oregon have dedicated a combined $50 million as of September 2020 to restart Interstate Bridge replacement work. The states' governors and legislative leaders directed ODOT and WSDOT to open a bi-state project office to complete the planning, design and construction work.
ODOT and WSDOT are jointly leading these efforts in coordination with eight other bi-state partner agencies: TriMet, C-TRAN, Oregon Metro, the Southwest Regional Transportation Council, the cities of Portland and Vancouver, and the Ports of Portland and Vancouver. These agencies have a direct stake in future improvements because of their roles within the region's integrated, multimodal transportation system. Together with ODOT and WSDOT, they will provide coordinated regional leadership throughout program development.
Progress to date
The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program is committed to following a data-driven, transparent process that prioritizes equity and inclusion. To that end, the bi-state partner agencies participated in a series of interviews, workshops and staff work sessions throughout the winter and spring of 2020. They focused on how best to work together to develop a bridge solution that earns broad regional support, reflects community values, and successfully advances to construction.
As part of broader community engagement efforts, an Executive Steering Group and a Community Advisory Group will be convened to provide regional leadership guidance and a community forum representing a diverse range of perspectives on key program issues of concern to the community. These advisory groups will be key components of a broader, comprehensive community engagement strategy to ensure ongoing, extensive and inclusive public dialogue. An equity strategy is being developed to further ensure the program development process is inclusive and equity principles are embedded into all aspects of the program.
The program office has also worked to bring on critical staffing resources to support program efforts. Greg Johnson will serve as program administrator to lead the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office and WSP, in partnership with Parametrix, has been selected as the prime consultant to provide specialized expertise to support program work, including technical analysis and community engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.
What's needed to replace the bridge?
Before construction could begin on a replacement bridge, WSDOT and ODOT will need to work with partners to:
- Complete the federal environmental review process
- Obtain necessary state and federal permits
- Finalize project design
- Develop a finance plan
- Secure adequate funding
- Complete right of way acquisition
- Advertise for construction
This work will occur through the joint efforts of the partner agencies in coordination with federal partners, permitting agencies, state and local elected officials, tribal governments, community stakeholders and the public. All work will be conducted through a transparent public process with extensive and inclusive community involvement – a critical component to identifying a solution the region supports.
In addition, bi-state legislative involvement will be essential to successfully complete the planning and design process and move to construction. Each state legislature has identified eight lawmakers to provide direction and oversight to shape IBR program work.
Many factors can influence the timeline to complete this work. Based on previous planning activities and the costs of similarly large projects, we estimate that it will take 3 to 5 years to complete the environmental review process and obtain federal approval to move to construction. The target is to make significant progress toward beginning the environmental review process in 2021.
I-5 at the Oregon-Washington border spanning the Columbia River
Cost and Funding
$50 million initially
What Problem Will This
Why does the Interstate Bridge need to be replaced?
As the only continuous north-south interstate on the West Coast between Mexico and Canada, I-5 is a vital trade route for regional, national and international economies. Replacing the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River has been an ongoing concern of Portland-Vancouver region residents for decades. The northbound bridge turned 100 years old in 2017, while the southbound bridge opened in 1958. Operating and maintaining these aging structures costs around $1.2 million each year, split evenly between ODOT and WSDOT. Larger maintenance projects to keep the Interstate Bridge in service are expected to cost over $280 million through the year 2040, not including seismic retrofit.
A key part of early program development work is establishing the Purpose and Need, and the community Vision and Values for the program. The Purpose and Need identifies the problems that must be addressed from a transportation perspective, and the community Vision and Values will identify regional values and goals related to potential transportation improvements. Together, the Purpose and Need and Vision and Values will set the foundation for screening alternatives to eventually arrive at a preferred solution. These will be developed through a public process that involves extensive stakeholder and public engagement to ensure the program is reflecting regional community values.
While the program is in the early stages of working with stakeholders and the public, we know that all six of the problems identified in previous planning work remain current issues that have not been addressed:
- Seismic vulnerability
- Limited public transportation
- Impaired freight movement
- Inadequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities
- Safety concerns as a result of existing roadway design
- Growing travel demand and congestion
- Read WSDOT's 2017
Columbia River I-5 Bridge Planning Inventory. The report documents existing data on construction of a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia, including a summary of the extensive technical work completed under previous bridge replacement efforts.
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