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News / Business / Clark County Business

I-5 Bridge Replacement Program moves into environmental review phase

All 8 partner agencies have OK’d locally preferred alternative

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 21, 2022, 6:29pm

An early version of the Interstate 5 Bridge plan officially moved into the federal environmental review process after it was unanimously recommended by the executive steering committee on Thursday.

In the next step, the environmental review phase, the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program will spend roughly the next year and a half conducting an environmental evaluation and design refinements.

“This is like climbing Mount Everest,” said Greg Johnson, the program’s administrator. “We are just at base camp, we are nowhere near the summit, we have significant work to do, but getting to base camp is a significant step and it prepares us to make a successful climb.”

Johnson and members of the Interstate Bridge Replacement team also received feedback, ranging from questions about the financing of the project to concerns over tolling, from the bistate legislative committee today.

“I am concerned that we are moving forward with just one (bridge) option in the supplemental draft environmental impact statement knowing that last time when we tried to get the Coast Guard to move it delayed us for one year,” Representative Khanh Pham said.

The vote follows the endorsement of the modified locally preferred alternative by all eight partner agencies.

Next steps

An upcoming environmental impact statement will build off the work done for the failed Columbia River Crossing, examining everything that has changed to the project area over the past decade. It will also identify where the bridge will sit and what properties will be impacted.

“We are building on that, but we are also acknowledging that there has been a number of changes that have happened in this region,” Johnson said.

There will be an opportunity for public comment before the supplemental final environmental impact statement and record of decision are published.

Along with the supplemental environmental impact statement, the I-5 Bridge project will spend the next year and a half developing a conceptual finance plan, applying for grants, developing a plan to address partner conditions and going before the Oregon Legislature for funding.

“I tell folks, we’re probably at the 10,000-foot view of a cost estimate we will be trying to get down to the 1,000-foot view or the 500-foot view by the end of the year,” Johnson said.

The modified locally preferred alternative was developed with the assumptions that it will be a replacement bridge with three through lanes in each direction, additional interchange improvements within the program corridor and variable rate tolling for funding and congestion mitigation.

The bridge type and bridge layout — if it is side-by-side or stacked — will not be selected until at least 2024.

Community Funded Journalism logo

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.

Columbian staff writer