The approach roads at either end of the overpass were finished by 2014 as part of the first two phases of the overall project. Battle Ground-based contractor Tapani Inc., broke ground on the third phase, the bridge itself, in the spring of 2020. Work continued during the pandemic, Grening said, allowing the project to stick to its planned 18-month build-out schedule.
Future city growth
The crossing has been a long-term goal for the port since 1998. Ridgefield’s population back then was only a fraction of what it is today, but Grening said the port began pursuing the overpass because it recognized that such projects can take decades to move from idea to execution, and it’s cheaper and easier to get infrastructure in place early.
The overpass will address immediate safety and access concerns, Grening said, providing better access for the roughly 50 residents who live along the river and for visitors traveling to the boat launch ramp. But it was also built “for what’s going to be needed in the future.”
Ridgefield has seen explosive growth in the past two decades — the 2020 census pegged the city’s population at 10,319, more than doubling its 2010 census count — but the bridge is designed with the assumption that the city has even more growth still to come.
When the Ridgefield area is fully built out, the bridge will be the nearest river access point for more than 100,000 people, Grening said. The city’s waterfront includes a 41-acre parcel zoned for mixed-use commercial development. There are no definitive plans in the wings yet, he added, but the overpass will set the stage for future projects.
“That’s what we’re building for,” he said. “That’s kind of the secret to infrastructure, is to build it before it’s a crisis, before you have a problem.”
Ridgefield Main Street executive director Marykay Lamoureaux said businesses in the downtown area are excited to see the overpass open, and they expect that it will bring more visitors to the area by providing easier access to fishing and kayaking on the river.
“Our downtown is pretty geographically isolated, and this is natural expansion,” she said.
The overpass isn’t the only infrastructure indicator of Ridgefield’s growth. C-Tran announced plans earlier this summer to bring regular bus service to the eastern end of the city next year, and WSDOT is developing a plan to add a new freeway connection at the southern end of the city by extending Northeast 219th Street west past Interstate 5.