A flurry of letters, agreements and permits between various regional, state and federal agencies and officials have dramatically revived plans to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.
This remarkable news comes after the Washington State Legislature refused to contribute toward a modern span in the vital transportation corridor between Oregon and Washington.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a supporter of the original proposal, is backing the revised plan, which would be constructed in phases.
The entire Columbia River Crossing project is very much a work in progress for both Gov. Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is looking for funding from his Legislature.
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Late last month, the U.S. Coast Guard approved a permit for a lower bridge design over the Columbia River. The new bridge would have a maximum height of 116 feet, have 10 lanes of traffic and a light-rail extension from Portland into Vancouver.
Three upriver companies would not be able to get some products under the new bridge, but they would receive money to relocate portions of their business downriver.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has signed off on elements of potential cooperative arrangements between the two states to construct, operate and maintain the bridge.
On the Washington state side, the first phase of I-5 interchange improvements would stop at Highway 14 in Vancouver.
C-Tran and Oregon’s TriMet, the regional transit agencies on each side of the river, would sign an agreement for light-rail service to be operated by the Portland-area agency to the Clark College campus in Vancouver.
Washington’s expenses for the project would be paid by its share of tolls collected.
The existing bridge does not work. The obsolete span is tied up for hours each day, interfering with commercial traffic and emergency vehicles.
Support for replacing the span goes back years, and was broadly endorsed by local and regional councils and agencies.
Groundbreaking could come next year. Great news. Keep moving forward.