Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sept. 23, 2020

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Inslee, Brown to sign I-5 Bridge agreement Monday in Vancouver

Governors both support replacing twin spans to ease congestion, improve safety, promote economic vitality

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that they will be in Vancouver on Monday to announce a joint effort to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge.

The two governors, both Democrats, are scheduled to sign a letter of intent toward replacing the bridge’s twin spans with a modern crossing that would ease congestion and be better able to withstand a strong earthquake, according to news releases from the governors’ offices.

Specifics of what’s in the agreement are not expected to be revealed until the two governors sign the document at 10:30 a.m. Monday at The Waterfront Vancouver, not far from the bridge itself.

Afterward, Inslee and Brown are scheduled to take questions from the media and meet with “regional leaders and stakeholders,” according to an advisory from Inslee’s office.

The two states plan to open an office for the I-5 Bridge project and incorporate community feedback in developing a bistate approach toward advancing the long-discussed project.

Both governors have previously supported replacing the twin spans that opened in 1917 and 1958.

“The current interstate bridge is over 100 years old, and it’s showing its age,” Brown said in a statement. “Replacing the interstate bridge is critical to the safety and economies of both Oregon and Washington.

“Our states are more interconnected than ever, and by working together, we can make our communities and roads safer while we improve mobility and support the economic vitality of our communities.”

The I-5 Bridge started reaching capacity during weekday peak hours nearly 30 years ago, within a decade of the December 1982 opening of the Interstate 205 Bridge.

Today, about 135,000 vehicles use the I-5 Bridge each day. According to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, the freeway near the bridge is congested for 11 hours on weekdays, from 5:45 to 9:45 a.m. north of the river and from 1 to 8 p.m. south of the river. Traffic crawls at 11 mph during peak congestion.

Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature allocated $35 million to replacing the I-5 Bridge: $17.5 million for a project office and $17.5 million for planning and pre-design of a new bridge. In August, the Oregon Transportation Commission agreed to provide $9 million.

In addition, each state has appointed eight legislators to a bistate committee on the I-5 Bridge. The committee had its second meeting Wednesday at the Port of Portland and is scheduled to meet again Dec. 20.

This is the second major effort to replace the I-5 Bridge. The previous Columbia River Crossing project disintegrated after the Washington Senate in 2013 balked at matching Oregon’s $450 million construction commitment.

The $3 billion-plus project would have replaced the bridge’s twin spans, upgraded freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River and extended Oregon’s light-rail line to Clark College.

Since the Columbia River Crossing ended in 2013, Clark County has added 53,000 residents, with the county’s population about 10,000 shy of a half-million.

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