I-5 - Interstate Bridge Replacement Program

Project news

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.

There have been over two decades of study in trade and transportation issues in the I-5 corridor through the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area and the following issues associated with the existing Interstate Bridge have been identified:

  • Seismic vulnerability
  • Safety concerns as a result of existing roadway design
  • Impaired freight movement
  • Limited public transportation
  • Inadequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • Growing travel demand and congestion

What’s happening?

Recognizing that needed improvements remain unaddressed, both Washington and Oregon dedicated funding to restart Interstate Bridge replacement work in 2019. The Washington State 2019-2021 Transportation Budget (ESHB 1160) included $35 million and the Oregon Transportation Commission approved allocating $9 million. Both governors and legislative leadership in both state have directed ODOT and WSDOT to open a bi-state Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office to complete this work. 

ODOT and WSDOT will jointly lead these efforts in coordination with eight other bi-state partner agencies that will provide regional leadership throughout program development: TriMet, C-TRAN, Oregon Metro, the Southwest Regional Transportation Council, the cities of Portland and Vancouver, and the Ports of Portland and Vancouver. These parties have a direct role in future improvements as a result of their positions as an owner, operator, transportation policymaker, or adjacent public economic development entity within the integrated, multi-modal transportation system. 

In an effort to ensure that work on the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program follows a data-driven, transparent process that prioritizes equity and inclusion, the agency partners participated in a series of interviews, workshops and staff work sessions throughout the winter and spring of 2020. The goal of the reengagement process was to discuss how best to work together to effectively advance a bridge solution that earns broad regional support, reflects community values and can successfully advance to construction.

A key piece of this work is the outline of two advisory groups — an Executive Steering Group­­­ (ESG) to provide regional leadership and a Community Advisory Group (CAG) to provide well-rounded community input. These advisory groups will be key components of a broader, comprehensive community engagement strategy to ensure ongoing, extensive and inclusive public dialogue.

The program office is also working to bring on critical staffing resources to support program work. This includes a program administrator to lead the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program office and a consultant team. The goal is to begin the next phase of program development work this summer, once these key resources are in place. This work will include technical analysis as well as community engagement with a wide range of stakeholders to identify a bridge solution that reflects community values and can build broad regional support.

What’s needed to replace the bridges?

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 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 program development work will be conducted through a public, transparent process with extensive and inclusive community involvement, which will be critical to successfully identify a solution that is supported by the region.

Bi-state legislative involvement will be essential for a project to successfully complete this process and move to construction. Each state legislature has identified eight representatives to formally engage in efforts to replace the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River. 

The timeline to complete this work can be influenced by many factors. Based on previous planning activities and the costs of similarly large projects, it is estimated that it will take 3-5 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 by July 2021. 

To help provide a solid understanding of previous work that could support efficient decision-making for a future project, WSDOT completed the Columbia River I-5 Bridge Planning Inventory in 2017 as directed by Washington Substitute Senate Bill 5806. The inventory documents existing data related to construction of a new bridge for I-5 over the Columbia, including a summary of the extensive technical work completed as part of previous bridge replacement efforts. 

 

Contact us

Program office phone: 360-905-1560
Email: interstatebridge@wsdot.wa.gov 

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Note: The Washington State Department of Transportation is a public agency and is subject to the State of Washington’s Public Records Act (RCW 42.56). Therefore, public comments and questions may be made available to anyone requesting them for non-commercial purposes.

Map of the location of the Interstate Bridge on I-5 between Washington and Oregon

Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR facing south

Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR during a bridge lift