Local leaders have endorsed a 10-lane replacement bridge connecting Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., along with a Hayden Island interchange reconstruction for the $3.6 billion I-5 project, instead of a 12-lane span.
The project will replace the existing twin three-lane drawbridge connecting Portland to Vancouver, improve 5 miles of freeway and extend Portland’s light-rail into Vancouver.
The funding will likely be split among three sources, the federal government, the two states and local revenue from bridge tolls.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) secured $42 million from a Senate transportation funding bill and told The Columbian that it signifies the federal obligation toward the highway project.
“It’s a first step,” she said to a small gathering at Vancouver Landing outside the Oregon DOT meeting, “but a very important and meaningful one to make sure people who live here are not left to fund this project all on your own.”
The Federal Transit Authority is also expected to provide $750 million the light-rail extension.
While local business leaders applaud the short-term economic boost of the project and an estimated $20,000 construction jobs and local official stress the urgency of the project to increase safety and reduce congestion, the formal record of decision (ROD) is unlikely to be finished by the start of 2011.
Concerns over the bridge’s costs, constructability and appearance sustain a constant debate and internal conflict.
Tom Warne of the independent review panel told The Columbian that the unique design of the bridge will require extensive testing, and the review panel also has to address other issues.
“You could crawl your way to a ROD in January of 2011,” he said. “You would still have rancor in the community”
A half-dozen protestors waved signs showing their opposition to bridge tolls and light-rail and one called for a third bridge across the Columbia in addition to I-5 and I-205.
The mayors of Vancouver and Portland both criticized the appearance of the off-the-shelf design proposed by a recent independent report. They said they want a bridge that is iconic as well as functional.
“I don’t think the design is worthy of the money we’re putting into it,” Portland Mayor Sam Adams told The Columbian.
The design preferred by the mayors has not been built anywhere else in the world. The bridge would include automobile decks on top, a pedestrian and bicycle path on the lower deck of one bridge and a light-rail transit line running on the lower deck of the other span.