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News / Clark County News

‘This bridge is a lifeline’: Hood River bridge replacement gets $200M from feds

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 22, 2024, 1:06pm

The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge replacement project received a $200 million federal grant, federal and local officials announced Monday.

The grant is expected to cover 40 percent of the project’s estimated $520 million price tag and is critical to reaching the goal of breaking ground in the next 18 months.

“This funding comes at the perfect time, and will allow us to stay on schedule with building the new bridge,” Mike Fox, co-chair of the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Authority, said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful to our bistate federal delegation for their unwavering support of this project and helping to deliver this funding for a key interstate connector.”

The seismically deficient, 100-year-old bridge with a 15 mph speed limit will be replaced by a concrete two-lane, fixed-span bridge with an attached bike and pedestrian path running side-by-side with traffic, which the current bridge lacks.

If it is not replaced, the bridge will close to truck traffic in 2030 due to safety concerns — and close to all traffic in 2040.

With the grant, project officials have secured nearly $320 million: $214 million from the federal government, $80 million from Washington and $25 million from Oregon. Bridge officials are seeking $125 million from both states for a total of $250 million. The remaining cost will be funded through tolls.

Last September, the toll for passenger vehicles increased from $2 to $3.50 per crossing. The entirety of the increase will go to the new bridge, according to the bridge replacement website.

The federal funding comes from the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects program.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., created the program in 2015. The program was funded with $8 billion over five years from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., helped pass.

The bridge is “a crucial linchpin in our wheat, barley and timber trade economy,” Cantwell said in a statement. “This federal down payment couldn’t have come at a more critical time.”

More than 4.3 million vehicles cross the bridge annually. The closest alternate crossings — Bridge of the Gods and The Dalles Bridge — are more than 20 miles in either direction.

“This bridge is a lifeline for our local communities, so I’m thrilled to see this federal investment in our region,” Bridge Authority Commissioner and White Salmon Mayor Marla Keethler said in a statement. “It shows a commitment to rural sustainability — a new bridge will benefit residents on both sides of the river for generations to come.”

Several Southwest Washington bridges need repair or replacement, including the Interstate 5 Bridge. The project to replace that bridge won a $600 million federal grant in December.

The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge “replacement project is essential to local economies and the safety of residents in both states,” Murray said in a statement. “This federal grant will make this bridge replacement project a reality.”

More questions about the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge replacement? Three bridge commissioners are hosting a Q&A on Facebook Live 5-6 p.m. Wednesday.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Washington’s and Oregon’s expected contribution to the project. 

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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