Thursday, October 6, 2022
Oct. 6, 2022

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Portland City Council, Port of Portland unanimously vote for I-5 Bridge plan

Vancouver council, C-Tran, Port of Vancouver also voted to approve the modified locally preferred alternative

By , Columbian staff writer,
, Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian Innovation Editor
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The Portland City Council and the Port of Portland have each voted to move the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program’s modified locally preferred alternative plan forward, bringing the early draft — with plenty of room for changes — closer to the environmental testing phase.

Portland’s City Council members — Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty, Carmen Rubio, Mingus Mapps and Dan Ryan — all said Wednesday that they have questions and concerns, but they agreed to move the project forward.

“There are a lot of ways this could go off the rail, but it certainly should not go off the rail on this vote,” said Hardesty, a member of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program’s executive steering group.

Eleven people commented on the bridge plan at the council meeting, by far the most public comments of any of the other government groups’ meetings on the bridge project. Some of the issues raised included climate, budget, tolls, steepness and bridge-clearance concerns.

The Portland City Council, along with other Oregon and Washington government groups, has set conditions on its approvals that will be addressed as the plans evolve in the coming years.

After the vote, Wheeler said he expects the new bridge to last another century. He said its replacement is essential because of Vancouver’s continued growth as well as the current bridge’s age, seismic inadequacy and lift span technology.

“I’m very bullish on the city of Vancouver and its long-term prospects,” Wheeler said. “Vancouver and Portland are going to become like the Twin Cities. I see Vancouver going through a significant growth spurt over the coming decades, and therefore we need to think about the connectivity between our two communities.”

Port of Portland

The Port of Portland also unanimously endorsed the plan for the new bridge Wednesday.

“The port’s general support for the program along with numerous other public entities in the region … indicates a recognition of the importance of this effort for the movement of goods and travelers and the urgent need for a seismically stable bridge for the region,” said Ivo Trummer, the port’s state affairs manager.

Four groups have endorsed the bridge plan so far: TriMet, the Vancouver City Council, the Port of Vancouver and C-Tran.

The modified locally preferred alternative was unveiled in May. It calls for three traffic lanes, one auxiliary lane and two shoulder lanes in each direction. It also includes light rail, variable-rate tolling and a bridge clearance of 116 feet. The U.S. Coast Guard said in June that it wants 178 feet of clearance for vessels under the next Interstate 5 Bridge.

Whether the bridge is built as two side-by-side spans or one stacked span has yet to be decided.

“This is not merely the end of the process,” said Greg Johnson, program administrator of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program. “This is the beginning.”

Today, the Clark County Regional Transportation Council Board of Directors and the Oregon Metro Council will vote on whether or not to endorse the plan.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program will then seek approval from its executive steering group and the Bi-state Legislative Committee. The next step, if all groups endorse the plan, will move the project into the environmental review process. The IBR will develop a work plan to respond to the partners’ priorities in their endorsements.

Johnson said the IBR has begun the process of applying for federal funding. Construction is expected to begin by late 2025.

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