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Interstate 5 Bridge Hearing Upcoming
“It is setting a very high bar by centering equity and climate”

As long as there is deterioration in this world the Interstate 5 Bridge Project will remain on the to-do-list.

The Joint Interim Committee on the Interstate 5 Bridge, chaired by Senator Lee Beyer and Representative Susan McLain, will meet on December 6, 2021 at 9am, with the Washington State Legislature’s Joint Legislative Action Committee regarding the construction of a new Interstate 5 Bridge. The meeting will be live-streamed and the public will have 20 minutes to give comment.

Greg Johnson, Program Administrator, Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) Program will provide an update and discuss the next steps. In the IBR 2021 Progress Report, Johnson states, “The Interstate Bridge is ranked as the worst bottleneck in Oregon and Washington and the 23rd worst bottleneck in the nation (ATRI 2021). The corridor experiences crash rates over three times higher than statewide averages for comparable facilities. With one bridge span now 104 years old, it is at risk for collapse in the event of a major earthquake and no longer satisfies the needs of modern commerce and travel. Replacing the aging Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River with a seismically resilient, multimodal structure that provides improved mobility and reliability for people, goods, and services is a high priority for Oregon and Washington.”

What can we expect from the meeting? Johnson says “the program has a dedicated principal equity officer working in tandem with the Equity Advisory Group and spearheading what we consider to be nationally significant equity-focused community outreach. The program also has a dedicated principal climate officer who is working shoulder-to-shoulder with partner agencies and stakeholders to help guide the program in designing a bridge that works toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planning for climate resilience issues...it is setting a very high bar for infrastructure programs across the country by centering equity and climate, which is a departure from the historical way of building infrastructure.”

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The IBR program is using previous planning work to maximize the current investment and support efficient decision-making, to not repeat the same work means the program will be able to take advantage of federal funding opportunities. By using prior Columbia River Crossing work, federal agencies will accept updates to prior data, which means a high-speed rail or a third bridge is out of this project, but may be planned for a future project.

The opposition has been unfairly identified as “do nothing” and stop planning. Perhaps if IBR were listening to stakeholders in opposition as much as it does to communities of color and reducing greenhouse gases, they may learn there is little opposition to a safer seismic tolerant bridge. The opposition had a lot to do with the extravagant design including high-speed rail, and in manipulating funds to deceive the public.

Currently Oregon has committed $45 million and Washington has committed a total of $133 million that includes improvements on their interchange. Federal competitive grant funding could potentially support the IBR program. A preliminary IBR Toll Rate Schedule has been developed by the IBR program and the Oregon Toll Program to be used by both the IBR and Oregon’s Regional Mobility Pricing Project (RMPP) traffic modeling teams for their preliminary analyses. And what of the $5.3 billion Oregon will receive and $8.6 billion Washington will receive from federal infrastructure funding? Is there a need to slow traffic for tolling?

Next steps will involve outlining a more detailed path forward, including key stakeholder and community engagement, and schedule of milestones for pursuing the implementation of highway tolling on the Interstate Bridge. The “equity” process prioritizes access, influence, and decision-making power for underserved communities throughout the program in establishing objectives, design, implementation, and evaluation of success. One could ask if these are the primary users of the I-5 bridge that warrants prioritizing their input. Climate goal is to overcome the limited capacity for low-emissions travel (e.g., walking, biking and rolling), constrained transit options, and significant congestion resulting in idling vehicles contributing to GHG emissions. Impaired freight movement is of major concern.

The basic design has three options: A curved twin span is the preferred option 1; a straight twin span; or a stacked alignment, with an upper deck and a lower deck carrying traffic in opposite directions.

Early work on the bridge project estimated $3-$5 billion needed. One thing is for sure, the longer the planning process, the more expensive the project. You can receive monthly updates by subscribing to the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program.


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-12-04 12:36:30Last Update: 2021-12-04 12:45:36



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