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.
We need to solve these problems
While the program continues working with stakeholders and the public to identify what has changed, we know that all six of the transportation problems identified by previous planning work remain as current issues that have not been addressed.
Land where the Interstate Bridge was constructed is rich in history
Local Native American tribes frequented the shores of the Columbia River and routinely traveled on the 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 over the years from a fur trading post, to a military fort, to today’s National Park System National Historic Site.
When the northbound section of the interstate bridge opened in 1917, it was the first automobile bridge that crossed 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 required 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 rich history of our region’s national heritage. How the bridge replacement is developed has an impact on the character and health of our communities and natural environment. The Interstate Bridge Replacement program is committed to promoting the best ways to minimize, avoid, and mitigate the 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 $80 million for initial planning work as of March 2021. 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 the 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 and was discontinued in 2014.
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 environmental review process began 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, Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Environmental Review Toolkit, or Federal Transit Administration (FTA’s) Environmental Review Process.
We want to hear from you. Help us shape the program.
A transparent public process with extensive and inclusive community engagement is critical component to the program identifying a solution the region supports.