Oregon – The U.S. government is set to invest over $500 million for the replacement of the I-5 bridge that spans the Columbia River, connecting Washington and Oregon.
This funding, amounting to $600 million, is allocated to the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, responsible for this key infrastructure project. This marks the first significant federal investment in a project crucial for the region and the West Coast.
Three Democrats from Washington state announced the grant: Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who represents the area near the Washington side of the bridge.
But there is still a lot of work to be done before building can begin and all the money is secured.
The total amount that is expected to be spent is between $5 billion and $7.5 billion meaning that this grant will only cover about 8% to 12% of the total amount. One part of the bridge is over 100 years old, and the other is about 65 years old. The bridge needs to be replaced as soon as possible so that it doesn’t collapse in case of a big earthquake.
Environmental assessments, the creation of a toll system, and planning work for the bridge are several things that are already being done. The construction should begin by the end of 2025 and go on until 2032.
In 2021, the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council reported that an average of nearly 132,000 vehicles crossed the bridge every weekday.
The funding for this project comes from the federal Mega Grant Program, aimed at supporting large-scale regional initiatives.
Both Washington and Oregon have pledged roughly $1 billion each for the bridge replacement. They also expect to raise between $1.1 billion and $1.6 billion through tolls.
In Oregon, the financing of the bridge has caused a lot of debate. Governor Tina Kotek has asked the state Legislature to limit the amount of bond money that can be used for this project. She wants the money to be used for other important things, like housing.
To meet the demands of environmentalists who want to see money put into a big transportation project, lawmakers in Oregon want to issue $250 million in bonds every two years as the state’s initial contribution. They said that the last $750 million could come from different sources, and that a big bill to fund transportation was planned for 2025.
Democratic officials in Oregon, such as Governor Tina Kotek, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, all spoke out in favor of the new bridge project. They think it will help every day drivers and truck drivers, and it will also make the bridge safer by making it resistant to earthquakes. Some organizers don’t agree with Blumenauer and Kotek, but they did say that adding light rail and paths for walking and biking will help cut down on pollution.
This bridge replacement idea has been in discussion for around 20 years. Recently, there’s more hope that it will actually start being built, as funding and support are getting stronger in both states involved.
Representative Gluesenkamp Perez and Mitch Landrieu from the White House infrastructure team visited the bridge in September to emphasize its importance. On Friday, Perez’s office shared that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who had been to southwest Washington in July, called to congratulate her on receiving a grant for the project.
Senators Cantwell and Murray have been working to get federal backing for this project for a long time. Murray mentioned she’s been involved in talks about it since 1992.