The U.S. Coast Guard has told project planners that their proposed design for a new Interstate Bridge is too low and that the maritime service would be unlikely to approve the plan in its current form.

A June letter from the Coast Guard to bridge planners says a new structure needs 178 feet of clearance, or a drawbridge, to accommodate vessels navigating the Columbia River, as well as products manufactured by several local companies.

The current design for a new bridge is 116 feet high with a fixed span. The existing bridge is two spans, both of which lift up to 178 feet.

Even under planners’ most optimistic timeline, construction is unlikely to begin until 2025 or beyond, after a full environmental review of the bridge design. But the Coast Guard will first need to sign off on a permit.

Bridge height also caused friction during a last incarnation of the project, when Oregon and Washington agreed to pay millions of dollars to three companies located upriver whose products — drill rigs and other massive pieces of equipment — wouldn’t fit under the proposed Columbia River Crossing.

Disputes over light rail and the Washington Legislature’s decision not to fund the bridge eventually torpedoed that version of the project in 2014.

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Greg Johnson, the director of the Interstate Bridge Replacement program, said in a written statement that the Coast Guard’s decision is preliminary and that his team had anticipated pushback on the height. He said while he understood the Coast Guard is focused on keeping navigation open on the water, his team’s goals are much broader.

“The IBR program has a responsibility to identify a multimodal solution that not only addresses the needs of navigation but those of all program area users including air, transit, freight, vehicle and active transportation,” he wrote.

Johnson said in the statement that while planners hopes to avoid a lift-span bridge, which would likely add considerable cost, they will continue to discuss it with the Coast Guard.

The bridge planning team is presenting the design to several local and state government agencies this month, including the cities and ports of Portland and Vancouver and the Metro regional government. Nine bodies in all must approve the design before it can move to the next phase, an environmental assessment.

The design includes a light rail connection between Portland and Vancouver, and it adds one auxiliary lane in each direction to the existing six lanes. The auxiliary lanes would directly connect some of the interchanges near the bridge, easing abrupt merges.

That’s been a point of contention for environmental groups who say adding a lane will encourage more people to drive, exacerbating climate change.

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In light of the Coast Guard’s statement, those activists also urged bridge planners to consider taking another design into the environmental review process.

“We’re suggesting the locally preferred alternative they’re proposing, and either a lift bridge or tunnel to accommodate the Coast Guard,” said Chris Smith, a member of the Just Crossing Alliance, a coalition of about two dozen local environmental and transportation advocates.

A second plan would keep the bridge from being delayed too much in case the design wouldn’t pass environmental reviews, Smith said. He suggested alternatives could allow the project to be completed in phases, allowing local leaders to prioritize other regional projects as well.

“This plan will just sweep off all additional funding for a decade,” Smith said of the design.

And, he said, a bridge built to 178 feet of clearance as the Coast Guard is seeking would require very step ramps onto Hayden Island and into downtown Vancouver that would be especially difficult for bikers and pedestrians to use.

Rep. Khanh Pham, D-Portland, is a member of the Just Crossing Alliance, as well as the two-state legislative committee that will vote on the design this month. She urged the project planners to heed the warning and come up with another potential solution.

“If the Coast Guard decides, as they’ve signaled this week, that they won’t approve a 116-foot bridge, we’ll have a Plan B or Plan C,” she said.