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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Stober: Study tunnel for Interstate Bridge Replacement Program

Vancouver councilor cites request to weigh drawbridge for crossing

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 13, 2023, 5:32pm

Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Ty Stober called for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program to conduct a new study of a tunnel after the Coast Guard and the federal government requested that program officials study a drawbridge in addition to a fixed-span crossing.

“If the IBR program is being required to study other options, a drawbridge is exactly the option they should not study,” Stober said in a Facebook post. “It would be a tragedy to replace one drawbridge on Interstate 5 with another one.”

“I am calling on the IBR team to do a fresh, complete study of a tunnel,” Stober continued. “The benefit would be to reconnect downtown Vancouver to Fort Vancouver and open the skyline.”

Stober did not specify whether he was referring to a bored tunnel, which is dug, or an immersed tube tunnel, which is composed of segments floated to the site, sunk and then linked together, and did not immediately respond to an email from The Columbian seeking clarification.

Both options were studied and dismissed — the bored tunnel during the Columbia River Crossing project and the immersed tube tunnel during the current project — for not fitting the program’s purpose and need.

A tunnel would miss key connections — including Highway 14 and Vancouver City Center, have archaeological, cultural and environmental impacts and have an estimated cost of approximately two times higher than estimates for a replacement bridge and approaches — estimated between $1.64 billion and $2.45 billion, said bridge replacement program Administrator Greg Johnson.

“Bored and immersed tube tunnel design concepts have already been analyzed during CRC, or by the IBR program and showed that they would result in multiple challenges with the present conditions in the program area,” Johnson said.

Stober said he will support whatever the final design is.

Bob Ortblad, a program critic and ardent immersed tube tunnel supporter, applauded Stober’s post and stressed that it needs to be an independent study.

“I’m glad somebody’s finally listening,” Ortblad told The Columbian. “I’ve been saying this for about three years that a high bridge doesn’t make much sense and an immersed tube tunnel is a pretty obvious solution.”

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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