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News / Clark County News

Interstate 5 Bridge project seeks $500M grant

Mega Grant award more likely due to states’ support

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 13, 2023, 5:46pm

Equivalent to one of the largest lottery jackpots ever or the gross domestic product of the Federated States of Micronesia, you can do a lot with $500 million.

But for the folks working to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, it’s a relatively small sum, clocking in at less than 10 percent of the replacement program’s estimated $6 billion cost. (For what it’s worth, $6 billion is roughly the gross domestic product of Montenegro, according to the World Bank.)

The half-billion is what the replacement program anticipates receiving from the U.S. Department of Transportation Mega Grant. The grant opened in late June and the program is planning to ask for between $500 million and $750 million from it.

If awarded, it would mark a milestone as the first significant federal investment in the project; a $1 million federal planning grant was awarded in October.

The program asked for $750 million from a different federal grant last year, the Bridge Investment Program, but did not receive it. At the time, program Administrator Greg Johnson said it was because the program was too early in the process and had not received a financial commitment from both Washington and Oregon.

Now both states have put up $1 billion and authorized tolling, which is expected to contribute $1.237 billion. Replacement program officials anticipate receiving $2.5 billion from the federal government in the form of three grants.

Similar project

Of the three federal grants the program intends to apply for, the Mega Grant is expected to contribute the fewest dollars. The transit Capital Investment Grants and the Bridge Investment Program are expected to provide $1 billion each.

The largest Mega Grant awards in fiscal year 2022 were $292 million to the Hudson Yards Project in New York and $250 million for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project, which will build a companion Brent Spence Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky.

There are strong similarities between the Brent Spence Bridge and the Interstate Bridge as they are both relatively old, bistate bridges that carry interstate traffic; the Brent Spence Bridge carries Interstates 75 and 71 over the Ohio River. The two states are working to build a new companion bridge for both interstates and shift local traffic onto the existing bridge.

Unlike the two vehicle bridges between Vancouver and Portland, there are six vehicle bridges and one pedestrian bridge connecting Cincinnati to Kentucky. Additionally, light rail is not included on the Brent Spence companion bridge.

In addition to receiving $250 million from the Mega Grant, the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project received $1.385 billion from the Bridge Investment Program grant for a total of $1.635 billion from the federal government. The project has an estimated cost of $3.6 billion.

The I-5 Bridge replacement team, as of now, anticipates receiving $1.5 billion from the Bridge Investment Program and the Mega Grant. Although that number was devised before seeing what Brent Spence received, the program is not looking to significantly up its request.

“The program anticipates applying for approximately $2.5 billion to $3 billion across all federal funding sources,” Assistant Program Administrator Frank Green said in a statement. “We are not looking to increase our federal ask to the $3-$5 billion range.”

“The program must balance the requirements of each of these grants and also be realistic about the size of federal funding awards possible within each grant program given the level of annual appropriation and nationwide competition,” he added.

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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.

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Columbian staff writer