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News / Business / Clark County Business

Hayden Island holds its breath as Interstate Bridge Project takes shape

Residents fear I-5 Bridge project will hurt businesses, people; official says program could unlock island’s potential

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 8, 2023, 6:14am
7 Photos
The Interstate 5 Bridge replacement will affect Hayden Island arguably more than anywhere else. Program Administrator Greg Johnson says he believes it will unlock some of the island's potential. Some residents fear it will negatively impact the island.
The Interstate 5 Bridge replacement will affect Hayden Island arguably more than anywhere else. Program Administrator Greg Johnson says he believes it will unlock some of the island's potential. Some residents fear it will negatively impact the island. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

HAYDEN ISLAND — Michael Brady stood on a floor of painted roses and held his left arm out.

“This is it,” he said, showing off the new stainless steel refrigerators contrasting with the 50-year-old ice cream display and the old espresso machine he’s working to restore.

The “it” will be Hayden Island’s La Rose Patisserie, which is set to open later this month. Brady is working with Christine Liu, a dentist with a practice on the island who owns the original La Rose Patisserie in Beaverton, Ore., and will own the Hayden Island location.

Brady wants it to be a community spot for the island; a local business on an island better known for its big-box stores and national chains.

“I want to have a place that my neighbors can walk to, sit down, have a cup of coffee and listen to some music and maybe buy baked goods,” he explained. “That small. That simple.”

Over the past five years, Brady has watched as an increasing number of national chains left the island.

The island’s only full-service grocery store, Safeway, closed in 2018, forcing residents to buy groceries at Target, a Chevron mini mart, Mexi-Frutas PDX, a Mexican produce store open from Friday through Sunday, or go off the island. Additionally, the Walmart in Delta Park closed earlier this year, making the nearest grocery stores to Hayden Island the Fred Meyer in North Portland and at Grand Central in Vancouver.

Popular restaurants Stanford’s, Cracker Barrel and BJ’s shut their doors, too. Stanford’s and Cracker Barrel cited safety issues, including theft and threatening behavior from people outside the restaurants for their closures.

None of the businesses that left cited the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement as a factor, but Brady worries that construction on the estimated $6 billion megaproject could keep replacement businesses away.

“The resources for us are limited,” Brady said. “It’s difficult to envision big businesses and big grocery chains committing to Hayden Island.”

Interstate Bridge Replacement Program Administrator Greg Johnson said he believes the bridge replacement will actually unlock some of the island’s potential.

“I think the potential of the island can only be enhanced by this project and having a beautiful modern bridge will make this only that much more attractive for folks to say, ‘Yeah, I want to come down there and see this,’ ” he said.


Portland’s only island community was home to slightly more than 3,000 people in 2020, up 800 from 2010, according to Portland State University’s neighborhood profiles. The median household income is $92,000 a year. An estimated 13.5 percent of the island’s population has a disability.

A large manufactured home and RV park community sits northwest of the island’s commercial area — with many units looking out at the Vancouver waterfront across the Columbia River.

On the island’s east side are condominiums, apartment complexes, floating homes, and some seven-figure standalone homes, according to Zillow.

Brady and other residents were drawn to the island because of its natural beauty, access to the Columbia River and rich history.

In spite of the island’s lush greenery, the island’s primary draw for Clark County residents is the sales tax-free shopping and Oregon lottery games.

Especially on larger purchases, driving across state lines to Target, Best Buy or Home Depot can save Washington residents tens, if not hundreds of dollars, in taxes — not to mention there is no Best Buy in Vancouver.

The island’s big-box stores are often the closest options for those in North Portland and parts of Northeast Portland, too.

According to data from the Oregon Lottery, of the 30 locations with video lottery in the 97217 ZIP code, encompassing Hayden Island and parts of North Portland, the locations with the highest video lottery sales in the past year were all on Hayden Island. Sales range from south of $2 million to $1.2 million.

Impacts on the island

The only way on and off Hayden Island is using Interstate 5. The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program will dramatically affect access to and from the island.

Because the proposed replacement Interstate 5 Bridge requires 116 feet of vertical clearance, the bridge’s footprint will be larger, soaring from Evergreen Boulevard in Vancouver to the south end of Hayden Island.

The higher bridge will allow for new local east-west streets under the freeway, creating more connections between the two sides of the island. These new local streets will have modern lighting, safe sidewalks, street crossings and bike facilities that meet city standards, according to city of Portland Commissioner Mingus Mapps’ office.

Additionally, depending on what bridge design is picked, the replacement bridge’s width could be twice that of the current bridge, from 140 feet wide to 252-272 feet wide over the river with one auxiliary lane.

A one auxiliary lane, stacked bridge would still be 173 feet wide.

The bridge replacement program will also replace the North Portland Harbor Bridge, which carries I-5 between North Portland and Hayden Island, and extend the MAX Yellow Line to the island and beyond to Vancouver. The Yellow Line currently terminates at the Expo Center.

Access from the island to I-5 will also be limited with a new partial interchange. There will be direct access to Hayden Island for drivers coming to and from the north, however, those looking to access the island to and from the south will have to use a new local access bridge to North Portland.

“Taken all together, the way people get to and from the island will be dramatically improved,” Mapps’ office said.

Although the city of Portland’s plan for Hayden Island was adopted in 2009, much of it is dependent on replacing the existing bridges over the Columbia River and on redevelopment of the shopping center, Mapps’ office said.

The plan envisions future redevelopment of the Jantzen Beach Center into a transit-supportive mixed-use project that would include new housing, according to Mapps’ office.

“After decades of being an assortment of disconnected neighborhoods and a collection of opportunistic land use and transportation decisions, the time is right to intentionally make Hayden Island and surrounding communities a place where neighborhoods are connected, businesses can thrive, people can access the Columbia River, and people want to visit and stay,” Mapps’ office said.


Hayden Island Neighborhood Network Chair Martin Slapikas says Hayden Island can be an afterthought to the rest of Portland and, as a result, the community is more closely knit than others.

The group’s official stance is that it will not support replacing the I-5 Bridge until a third Columbia River crossing is built, whether that be a bridge or tunnel, and is operational, because the I-5 Bridge replacement will not sufficiently reduce congestion and freight movement and will increase interstate’s footprint on the island, Slapikas said. However they are considering changing their stance to supporting a bridge replacement with a smaller footprint than the one proposed.

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The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program and the previous replacement effort studied multiple different types of tunnels and concluded they would not work at this location. Johnson said a conversation around a third bridge needs to be had, but that it can’t jump in front of the I-5 Bridge replacement.

The program anticipates that the project will speed morning southbound commutes between the I-5/Interstate 205 split and Interstate 405 in Portland by three minutes and northbound evening traffic between Portland’s Broadway and Washington’s state Highway 500 by 11 minutes.

The neighborhood association is a member of the Just Crossing Alliance, a coalition of organizations that includes The Street Trust, No More Freeways and 1,000 Friends of Oregon, that advocates for a replacement with a smaller footprint than the one the replacement program is proposing.

Be Friend, a Hayden Island resident and the neighborhood group’s representative to the Just Crossing Alliance, said their biggest concern about the replacement bridge is that it will be difficult to walk on. 

Friend said that an elevator would help, but worries that it will still be too steep for some.

Johnson did not say if there would be an elevator to the light rail station or a shared-use path at Hayden Island and said that it will be further developed as the program advances.

Friend shares Brady’s worry that construction will make it difficult for businesses to survive.

“I think all of the commerce on the island is going to wither,” Friend said.

The bridge replacement program is committed to minimizing and mitigating construction impacts, Johnson said.

“To minimize local and regional traffic disruption and maintain acceptable levels of safety and mobility near IBR program work zones, including on Hayden Island, the program will employ a number of traffic management, project scheduling and project delivery strategies,” he said in a statement.

Currently at a 10 percent design level, the program will have more details about specific construction activities and an analysis of potential impacts when the draft supplemental environmental impact statement is released later this year.

Connection with history

Commerce is why many flock to Hayden Island, but if the bridge replacement affects that, Brady hopes that it could be offset by highlighting the island’s history, culture and art.

He hopes there will be a place to learn more about the history of the island, from the I-5 Bridge to the competing amusement parks in the 1930s — did you know that at the Lotus Isle amusement park, an elephant got scared by a low-flying stunt plane and destroyed a few pavilions? — and that the Jantzen Beach carousel, one of the largest in the nation, will be back in service on the island.

“Currently, Hayden Island is an example of the challenges,” he said. “I believe we can be an example of the solutions.”

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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.

Columbian staff writer