Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Feb. 8, 2023

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Letter: Tunnel would be safer than bridge

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On Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, Antonio Amaro Lopez on his way home from work plunged off the Interstate 205 Bridge into the Columbia River. Antonio was driving less than 50 mph, hit an ice patch, skidded and jumped a Jersey barrier. 

Ice and the bridge’s 2.7 percent downgrade extended his stopping distance more than 10 times. The I-205 Bridge is curved, so Antonio slid across four lanes before hitting a snow ramp that launched his SUV over a Jersey barrier into the river.

Go Safe Labs ranked the I-205 Bridge as the eighth most accident-prone site in the country, with an accident every three days.

A new I-5 Columbia River bridge will be even more dangerous. The 10-year-old $200 million Columbia River Crossing bridge design has a 4 percent downgrade, curvature similar to the I-205 Bridge, a shaded northern exposure that will retain black ice, and sight distances much shorter than stopping distances in foggy, wet or icy conditions.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program administration is eager to recycle the Columbia River Crossing bridge design. The IBR has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on bridge engineering consultants to discount the possibility of a much safer river crossing design: an immersed tube tunnel.

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