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: TriMet, C-TRAN, Oregon Metro, the Southwest Regional Transportation Council, the cities of Portland and Vancouver, and the Ports of Portland and Vancouver. These are the agency partners that will have a direct role in any future improvements, due to their position as an owner, operator, transportation policymaker, or public economic development entity reliant on direct access to operations within the bridge corridor. 

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 kicked off a series of workshops in March to determine how they will work together to successfully advance a program. The workshop process is designed to give the agency partners a solid foundation on how they will work together, to set the stage for discussions on program development work. An essential piece of this work is for the agency partners to determine how they will engage meaningfully with the broader community throughout program development to ensure the process is credible for all and reflects regional needs and values.

Concurrent to the workshop process this spring, the program office is working to bring on critical staffing resources, including a program administrator and a consultant team. Once these three key tasks are accomplished, the program team will be able to begin substantive program development work, which includes planning and technical work such as confirming purpose and need and developing design elements.

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