Washington and Oregon have five more years to make substantial progress on replacing the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River to avoid repaying $140 million in federal money spent on the failed Columbia River Crossing Project.

The two states faced an initial Sept. 30, 2014, deadline to get the $3 billion-plus project underway. The Federal Highway Administration previously granted a five-year extension, which means Washington and Oregon would be obligated to repay the $140 million if efforts to replace the bridge were not renewed by Sept. 30 of this year.

The two states last month requested a second extension, this one for 10 years, to revive the bridge, freeway and transit project.

On Tuesday, they received formal notification that the federal government will give them a second five-year extension instead.

Washington Administrator Daniel Mathis and Oregon Administrator Phillip Ditzler of the Federal Highway Administration wrote that “meaningful steps” have been taken by both states to restart the project, including:

  • The Washington state Legislature provided $35 million for a new bridge project.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to engage the Washington State Department of Transportation in restarting the project.
  • The Oregon Transportation Commission committed $9 million to the project.

Tuesday’s letter specifically referenced some target milestones provided by WSDOT Southwest Regional Administrator Carley Francis for the upcoming work:

  • Relaunching environmental review of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act in spring 2020.
  • Completing environmental review and starting the right-of-way process in summer 2023.
  • Acquiring right of way and beginning construction by summer 2025.

The project is being rekindled after the Washington state Senate in 2013 walked away from funding the Columbia River Crossing Project. That nondecision effectively killed the multiyear effort to replace the bridge, upgrade freeway interchanges and extend light-rail transit into Vancouver.