Washington and Oregon are risking $2.5 billion of federal grants to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River. The U.S. Coast Guard has suggested the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program consider a tunnel as an alternative to an impractical tall bridge (178-foot clearance). The Coast Guard must see that the bridge program’s “tunnel concept assessment” is incorrect and misleading. The program is ignoring the 178-foot clearance requirement and has pressed municipalities and agencies to approve its “locally preferred alternative” of a too-low bridge (116-foot clearance). If the program’s plan to politically pressure the Coast Guard to accept its preferred alternative fails, federal funds will go to better projects.
The Washington-Oregon legislative committee should support the Coast Guard’s tunnel evaluation recommendation and hire a consultant, independent of the bridge replacement program, to do an honest evaluation of an I-5 immersed tunnel.