Understanding the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program
The Interstate Bridge is a critical connection between Oregon and Washington, located on Interstate 5 where it crosses the Columbia River
Replacing the aging Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River with a modern, seismically resilient, multimodal structure that provides improved mobility for people, goods and services is a high priority for Oregon and Washington.
A community-driven process will help the program identify a solution that reflects our region's vision and values
A key part of our early program work is developing the Purpose and Need and defining the Community Vision and Values. These are two key components of our community engagement and are essential to our federal environmental review process. The Purpose and Need will identify the transportation problems that must be addressed, and the approach to addressing them. The Community Vision and Values will identify regional values and goals related to potential transportation improvements. Together, the Purpose and Need and Community Vision and Values will set the foundation for screening alternatives that will be analyzed to establish the program’s locally preferred alternative. Extensive stakeholder engagement, inclusive community outreach and a transparent public process are fundamental to identify the transportation solutions and community values that will help identify a bridge replacement alternative.
We need to solve these problems
While the program is in the early stages of working with stakeholders and the public to identify the problems that need to be solved, we know that all of the problems identified in previous planning work remain current issues that have not been addressed. This list of problems will be used as a starting point as we work with partner agencies and the public to ensure the identified list of problems reflects current and future needs.
Land where the Interstate Bridge was constructed is rich in history
Local Native American tribes frequented the shores and routinely traveled the Columbia River to trade and practice usual and accustomed traditions since time immemorial. The bridge was built in the shadow of historic Fort Vancouver, which has transitioned from a fur trading post, to a military fort, to a National Park System National Historic Site.
When the northbound section of the interstate bridge opened in 1917, it was the first automobile bridge across the river between Washington and Oregon. There was a 5¢ toll, per vehicle or horse, to cross the 38-foot-wide roadway. Electric streetcars operated across the bridge from opening day in 1917 until 1940. The bridge became part of Interstate 5 in 1957. Along with the new interstate system came a second parallel bridge, which opened to traffic in 1958, and carried a toll for vehicles crossing the bridge.
Beyond concrete and steel
Beyond the concrete, asphalt and steel of the existing interstate bridge is a thriving background of scenic views, natural systems, and a rich history of our region’s national heritage. How our transportation infrastructure is developed has an impact on the character and health of our communities, and that of the natural environment. The Interstate Bridge Replacement program is committed to promoting best ways to minimize, avoid, and mitigate impacts of replacing and operating this key connection within our community.
Bi-state leadership initiates the restart of bridge replacement efforts
Recognizing that regional transportation issues and necessary improvements to the Interstate Bridge remain unaddressed, both Washington and Oregon have dedicated a combined $50 million for Interstate Bridge replacement planning work. The IBR program will leverage work from previous planning efforts where appropriate and update prior studies to integrate new data, regional changes in transportation, land use and demographic conditions, and public input to inform program development work.
Previous Planning Work
Regional leaders identified the need to address the I-5 corridor, including the Interstate Bridge, through previous bi-state, long-range planning studies. In 2004, the Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation formed a joint Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project. The intent of this project was to improve safety, reduce congestion, and increase mobility of motorists, freight traffic, transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This project was active between 2005 and 2014 and successfully received a federal Record of Decision in December 2011. However, the CRC project did not secure adequate state funding to advance to construction.
The IBR program team will work in collaboration with local, state, federal and tribal partners, and the community to complete the following work over the next four years.
- 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
Based on previous planning activities, we estimate it will take three to five years to complete the environmental review process and obtain federal approval before beginning construction. The goal is to begin the environmental review process in 2021.
Understanding the Federal Environmental Review Process
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requires Federal agencies to assess and disclose the environmental effects of Federal actions prior to making decisions. You can read more about NEPA and the environmental review process at the Council on Environmental Quality’s NEPA webpage or Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Environmental Review Toolkit.
In 2011, a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) was published for the I-5 Columbia River Crossing Project in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The IBR program will conduct a re-evaluation of the 2011 Final EIS and ROD to identify any changes that warrant additional analysis. Some of the changes that could be identified during the re-evaluation period could include; changes to project area such as properties and their uses, changes in regulations, changes in transportation needs, and understanding the constraints and commitments in the previous study. One possible outcome of the re-evaluation could be a recommendation to prepare a Supplemental EIS, which would provide information about new or changed environmental impacts.
A notice of Intent (NOI) must be published to inform the public of an upcoming environmental analysis, but prior to the NOI, the IBR program will develop baseline information to support certain planning decisions and to inform the scope of issues that would be evaluated during a Supplemental EIS process. Specifically, the IBR program team intends to update the purpose and need statement, establish community vision and values, analyze a preliminary range of alternatives, and identify a reasonable range of alternatives that can be adopted into a Supplemental EIS process.
We want to hear from you. Help us shape this program.
A transparent public process with extensive and inclusive community involvement is a critical component to identifying a solution the region supports.