Efforts to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge continued to pick up steam Tuesday as the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council supported a statement listing the project as “Action #1.”
The RTC’s board of directors voted to endorse the Clark County Transportation Alliance’s 2020 Policy Statement that backs other projects to ease Interstate 5 congestion, such as improving traffic flow near the Rose Quarter and the I-5/Interstate 84 interchange in Portland.
The policy statement also supports accelerating state funding for interchange improvements at I-5 and 179th Street. Last month, the Clark County Council removed a de facto moratorium and opened the door for building more than 1,500 single-family houses, apartments and townhomes in the area.
The RTC board endorsed the policy statement following a short discussion. Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy renewed his push to establish a new corridor and third bridge between Washington and Oregon.
Medvigy said vehicle crashes, snow or police activity can snarl traffic on both sides of the Columbia River.
“That’s not going to go away with a new I-5 bridge,” he said. “It can only possibly go away with a new corridor.”
Matt Ransom, RTC executive director, said about 50 different agencies and organizations are endorsing the alliance’s Policy Statement, which he does not see as setting policy for RTC.
“This document is an amalgamation of ideas,” Ransom said.
This is the second time RTC has thrown its support behind replacing the I-5 Bridge’s twin spans. In October 2018, the RTC board passed a resolution calling for replacing the bridge with a new crossing with high-capacity transit, which is typically either light rail or bus rapid transit. Both move larger numbers of passengers with fewer stops than typical C-Tran buses.
The policy statement also supports 16 “critical regional projects” in Clark County, including C-Tran’s plan to add bus rapid transit along the Mill Plain Boulevard corridor, linking 192nd Avenue and downtown Vancouver. The agency’s first bus rapid transit route opened along Fourth Plain Boulevard between Vancouver Mall and downtown Vancouver nearly three years ago.
Ron Arp, Identity Clark County’s president and Clark County Transportation Alliance co-chair, said following the meeting that all projects are important to the county’s future.
“The bridge is not a one-trick solution,” he said. “We have to have that with the other improvements.”
The Clark County Transportation Alliance is a coalition of organizations, agencies and communities that develops an annual policy statement used to advocate for regional transportation funding. The city of Vancouver and Identity Clark County started it 20 years ago.
This week, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation submitted a December 2019 progress report on I-5 Bridge replacement to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, along with legislative transportation committees in both states.
The 41-page document provides a synopsis of work completed to date, as well as a general path forward with specific milestones:
• Spring: Re-evaluate the federal decision issued in December 2011 for the abandoned Columbia River Crossing project.
• July 1: Re-evaluate the Columbia River Crossing’s purpose and need statement and environmental permits and re-engage stakeholders and the public.
• Dec. 1: Develop a conceptual financing plan.
• June 30, 2021: Make significant progress toward beginning a supplemental environmental impact statement.
• Summer 2023: Complete the supplemental environmental impact statement process by obtaining a federal record of decision and begin right-of-way acquisition.
• Summer 2025: Complete right-of-way acquisition and begin construction.