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News / Business / Clark County Business

After delays, I-5 Bridge replacement environmental impact statement on the horizon

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 8, 2024, 2:53pm

As the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program continues to crank toward groundbreaking by late 2025 or early ’26, the release of a key piece — the draft supplemental environmental impact statement — appears to be in sight.

Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council staff outlined next steps at Tuesday night’s meeting.

A bridge replacement official will attend the council’s March meeting to answer questions and provide a briefing on the program status.

At the April meeting, council staff will request sign off on releasing the draft supplemental environmental impact statement to the public.

The draft document highlights the benefits and impacts of the proposed bridge plan — including on the environment and affected properties.

Originally slated to be released last summer, there have been a handful of delays in getting it to the finish line, however.

The first setback came in March after the U.S. Coast Guard and federal government requested that the program study a river crossing that does not impede river navigation — such as a drawbridge. The draft statement was pushed back to late 2023.

In the fall, program officials announced the document’s release was delayed until early 2024 with February the targeted release date. Officials cited the back-and-forth with the federal government as the cause of the delay. Then the release date was pushed to spring.

Now it appears that the document will not be released until April, at the earliest.

Before the document is released to the public, a handful of agencies need to  sign off on it. The agencies include the Federal Highway and Transit administrations, the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation, C-Tran, TriMet, the Regional Transportation Council and Metro.

Whenever the document is released, it will mark a major milestone for program officials.

The document’s release is a prerequisite for construction to begin.

By law, work in the Columbia River can only be done during a certain window of the year to minimize impact on fish and other wildlife.

Program officials are targeting the fall 2026 in-water work window. If it is missed, it will be another year before much of the construction on the bridge can begin.

Despite the setbacks, a spokesperson for the program said construction is on track to start in late 2025 for the lead up to the in-water work window.

Columbian staff writer