The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program announced Friday that it is studying more than one auxiliary lane — lanes connecting onramps and offramps — for a replacement bridge, a change of course from their original plan.
The program will study three auxiliary lane options: one in each direction, two in each direction, and a hybrid option where, in addition to one in each direction, the outside shoulders could be used as a second auxiliary lane during peak hours.
By studying more options, the program can save time and money, program administrator Greg Johnson said.
“We’ll be looking at this as a strategy to save time, so we don’t have to go back and restudy this as an extra supplemental environmental impact process, but also to save money in the possibility of (needing to) keep this bridge the same size and still move traffic efficiently out into the future,” Johnson said in an interview with The Columbian.
The announcement came at the same time as the reveal of the program’s updated cost estimate of $6 billion, with a range of between $5.5 billion and $7.5 billion.
The best way to keep the cost on target is to remain on schedule, Johnson said, and studying only one auxiliary lane was a relatively easy solution to minimize risk.
Rep. Khanh Pham, D-Portland, a member of the bridge replacement’s bistate legislative committee, was not surprised by the announcement.
“It confirmed my suspicions, because the current design is 164 feet, which is just 16 feet smaller than the original (Columbia River Crossing) design,” Pham said. “You could easily fit 10 lanes on the current design with a simple restriping.”
“Now they’re just being more explicit that they are going to study the possibility of two aux lanes, but that’s always been an option,” Pham added.
Conditions of approval
In endorsing the bridge plan, the eight partner agencies passed conditions of approval articulating what they want in a replacement bridge. The conditions are not binding and function as points that need to be answered and analyzed.
The city of Portland and Metro Council’s conditions of approval called for only one new lane in each direction.
“Environmental clearance of more than one new lane in each direction is not acceptable,” the city of Portland’s condition of approval said.
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