- The Interstate Bridge Replacement project between Oregon and Washington, now estimated to cost up to $7.5 billion, recently won a $600 million Mega Grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to a Dec. 15 press release.
- The 100-year-old I-5 bridge is a vital commerce link for the entire West Coast: More than 130,000 vehicles move over the span daily. Oregon and Washington are expected to each contribute $1 billion to the overhaul to make it more seismically sound and efficient.
- Overall, the expansion project will add lanes to nearly 5 miles of I-5, enlarge seven interchanges, extend MAX light rail from Portland into Vancouver and create new walking and biking paths. The six existing lanes would be expanded to eight, four in each direction, as the bridge crosses the Columbia River.
Oregon and Washington state officials praised the new funding.
“This is a big moment for the Pacific Northwest and demonstrates the national significance of this effort,” said Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek in the release. “Replacing the Interstate Bridge is a critical infrastructure investment for our local communities, two states and the entire West Coast.”
Previous efforts to replace the bridge failed in 2014, largely due to federal lawmakers’ opposition to the light rail component. Environmental activists have also balked at the project and are pushing for a design that doesn’t entail freeway-widening, according to Oregon Live.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard has said it will not approve a bridge plan unless it has 178 feet of clearance or a drawbridge to accommodate vessels navigating the river below, but building a movable span would be even more expensive.
Oregon and Washington transportation officials said they plan to seek at least $2.5 billion in federal grants. The states also plan to use toll revenue to make the project pencil out.
The Mega Grant Program was created through the IIJA to support large, complex projects that are likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility or safety benefits. The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project linking Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, also previously received funding from the program.