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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver City Council approves early I-5 Bridge plan

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer, and
Will Campbell, Columbian Associate Editor
Published: July 11, 2022, 7:29pm

The Vancouver City Council, Port of Vancouver and C-Tran voted Monday and Tuesday to approve the early draft of a plan to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge.

The approval of the modified locally preferred alternative is an early step in a long process for the project, and the plans are subject to change as the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program seeks more review, paving way for revision.

“(It) moves it from step two to step three of 100 steps, so this is a very exciting time,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said.

The city council, which voted unanimously to approve the plan Monday, was the second of eight involved agencies to vote. After the groups vote on the plans, the project will move into the environmental review process. Portland’s TriMet Board of Directors voted to endorse the plan on June 22.

On Tuesday, the Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to endorse the plan, called the modified locally preferred alternative.

The C-Tran Board of Directors also voted to endorse the plan on Tuesday. Karen Bowerman was the sole “no” vote, stating that she doesn’t support the light rail in its current form, and she also wants to see the bridge do more to reduce congestion.

This week is when most of the organizations that participate in planning the bridge will vote on endorsing the locally preferred alternative.

The meetings include:

  • July 13 – Port of Portland Board of Commissioners
  • July 13 – Portland City Council
  • July 14 – RTC Board of Directors
  • July 14 – Metro Council (endorsed by JPACT June 16)

“As someone who’s been sitting, almost since I’ve started driving, waiting on traffic on that bridge, let’s get going,” Councilor Ty Stober said.

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Greg Johnson, program administrator of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, said the vote was a significant milestone for the program.

“We have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the city of Vancouver and our other regional partners for more than a year and a half to arrive at this critical step to identify the foundation of what to study as we move into the environmental review process,” Johnson said in a statement to The Columbian. “We are confident that our continued collaborative process will result in a multimodal replacement bridge that will serve communities on both sides of the Columbia River for the next 100 years.”

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program’s modified locally preferred alternative announced in May calls for four total lanes: three travel lanes, one auxiliary and two shoulder lanes in each direction.

Under the plan, light rail would be extended from the Portland Expo Center over the bridge, terminating at Evergreen Boulevard in Vancouver, bringing the MAX system into Vancouver for the first time. C-Tran’s bus rapid transit system, The Vine, would also expand in Vancouver to accommodate commuters.

The locally preferred alternative was developed under the assumption of there being variable rate tolling. Consideration for a low-income toll program including exemptions and discounts was recommended by the Oregon and Washington State Transportation Commission.

The U.S. Coast Guard wants a bridge with 178 feet of clearance, the height of the current bridge when fully lifted, which is significantly taller than the current 116-foot clearance that bridge project leaders plan in the modified locally preferred alternative.

Whether the bridge is side-by-side or stacked has yet to be decided.

The proposal is expected to reduce southbound morning travel times between the Interstate 5/Interstate 205 split and Interstate 405 in Portland by three minutes and evening traffic between Portland’s Broadway Avenue and Washington state Highway 500 by 11 minutes, according to John Willis, the deputy program manager for the bridge project.

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council Board of Directors will vote on the plan at 5 p.m. Thursday at Clark County Public Service Center in the sixth-floor training room, 1300 Franklin St. It can be accessed virtually at bit.ly/RTCB07142022 and will be broadcast live on CVTV (Comcast channel 21) and on www.cvtv.org.

The Regional Transportation Council Board of Directors includes Shawn Donaghy, chair of the board, and Matt Ransom, executive director. The RTC is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the county. It is required for federal transportation funding.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.