Thursday, May 26, 2022
May 26, 2022

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In Our View: Get involved in Interstate 5 Bridge replacement

The Columbian
Published:

Do you have ideas for a replacement Interstate 5 Bridge? Thoughts about the inclusion of transit options? Preferences for the design of a new span across the Columbia River?

Of course you do. Everybody in these parts has opinions about a new bridge, about tolls and light rail and the number of lanes.

Now, as leaders from Washington and Oregon move forward on visualizing and constructing a replacement bridge, there are numerous opportunities for public input. With organizers pondering the look of the bridge, a virtual community briefing session will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday. That will be followed by three additional sessions at varying times of day over the next two weeks.

Interested citizens may visit interstatebridge.org/calendar for information about the meetings, and questions may be submitted ahead of time at info@interstatebridge.org.

The current topic is the basic design, with three options at the forefront: A curved twin span; a straight twin span; or a stacked alignment, with an upper deck and a lower deck carrying traffic in opposite directions. Other questions in the coming months will involve items such as high-capacity transit and the number of lanes.

All of this brings to mind one of the fallacies about the previous Columbia River Crossing proposal. Critics claimed that project, which was scuttled in 2013, did not include adequate public input. In truth, much input was sought; if members of the public believed they were not included, that is the fault of organizers for failing to publicize the opportunities — and of citizens for failing to take advantage of those opportunities.

Now, leaders of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program are highlighting public input and dealing directly with myths surrounding the project. The organization’s home page answers common untruths such as “a replacement bridge has already been designed” and “a third bridge would eliminate the need to replace the Interstate Bridge.”

It also addresses the belief that a tunnel should be the preferred solution: “A tunnel cannot be feasibly built within the footprint of I-5 without eliminating important connections to Hayden Island, downtown Vancouver, and SR-14. It also comes with significantly more operational, environmental and historical resource impacts, and would cost more than a replacement bridge.”

A link to the 39-page “Tunnel Concept Assessment” is provided, where the public can read about “Dredging and Excavation Risks” and “Highway Ventilation.”

The fact that a tunnel under the Columbia could not connect with Highway 14 or downtown Vancouver renders it untenable for Clark County residents. It also points out the need for the public to be informed and adopt a reasonable approach to the bridge project.

Gov. Jay Inslee for years has touted the need for Southwest Washington residents to forge a consensus when it comes to a bridge replacement. Indeed, we do not want to again waste several years and millions of dollars only to see the plan evaporate.

Consensus does not mean unanimity; there is room for disagreement on the details. But public consensus depends on that public being informed and forming opinions based on the facts.

Developing plans for a new Interstate 5 Bridge involves two states, two cities, two counties, two transit agencies, a regional government in Oregon and, eventually, the federal government. But the most important factor in the equation is the people of Clark County and the Portland area. And there are plenty of opportunities for them to be involved.

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