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Washington and Oregon governors propose design, seek federal funding for new I-5 bridge


Yesterday, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced plans to seek $1.3 billion in federal funding for the Columbia River Crossing project and break ground on a new bridge by 2013.

The governors identified a deck truss bridge as the optimal replacement structure for the aging Interstate 5 bridge because the design provides “the most certain path to keep the project on schedule and on budget,” they said in a joint statement. Two other bridge options under consideration would require delays for additional design work and environmental analysis, which would add time and cost, they said. The deck truss bridge is the most affordable, most likely design to meet a desired construction schedule and attract the most competitive bids, and the easiest to build, the governors believe.

“Our timing is important. We must secure a federal record of decision on our design this year to ensure the best chance of receiving full funding,” said Gregoire.

Columbia River Crossing project organizers are seeking $400 million in federal highway discretionary funding as well as $850 million in Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding for the new bridge, which would extend the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s MAX light-rail service from Portland, Ore., across the state line.
Gregoire and Kitzhaber have asked legislators and treasurers to immediately begin working with officials from their state departments of transportation to review and refine the financing plan and toll revenue projections. The bi-state collaborative approach will minimize financial risks and provide accountability and oversight as the project advances toward construction, the governors said.

The project’s current timeline calls for updating cost estimates incorporating the deck truss design, adding architects to the project team and establishing architectural specifications for a bridge design contract this spring; working with the Project Sponsors Council to publish a final Environmental Impact Statement this summer; receiving a federal record of decision by late 2011; and starting construction by 2013.

The Columbia River Crossing project area spans five miles of I-5 between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland. The bridge serves as a critical connection for two major ports, upriver barges and two transcontinental rail lines.

The existing I-5 crossing comprises two side-by-side bridges with lift spans. The eastern bridge, which accommodates northbound traffic, was built in 1917; the western bridge, which handles southbound traffic, was built in 1958.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/26/2011