A federal Mega Grant of $600 million was announced for the Interstate Bridge Replacement program (IBR) on December 15. The Oregon and Washington Depts. of Transportation are leading the replacement effort, which will see:
- Construction of a new bridge that will be tall enough so that bridge lifts are not necessary and that meets current seismic standards;
- Inclusion of a dedicated, high-capacity guideway for services such as light rail; safety shoulders and ramp-to-ramp connections (auxiliary lanes) to improve the flow of traffic and safety; and a shared-use pedestrian and bike path at least 10 feet wide; and
- Replacement of the North Portland Harbor bridge, which connects North Portland to Hayden Island on I-5, to meet seismic standards.
Project officials said they could receive as much as $2.5 billion of total federal funding. Total estimated cost of the replacement is around $6 billion. Oregon and Washington have pledged $1 billion each.
The announcement was cause for celebration among Oregon and Washington political leaders. Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Governor Kotek, and Representative Suzanne Bonamici issued statements in response to the award from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Wyden said, “Today’s $600 million down payment on the federal investment needed for the Interstate Bridge is good news for freight traffic…as well as helpful for commuters.” Merkley added that the grant “is not only a game changer for Oregonians who will soon have expanded transportation options…but a huge win for our economy as the project will generate many good-paying union jobs.” Rep. Bonamici gave credit to “President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ strong commitment to rebuilding and renewing America.”
Bridge Replacement program organizers have stated that the project will require “revenue from a diverse range of sources, including federal and state funds, and tolling.”
Tolling is one of the most controversial aspects of the proposal. Wyden said he would like to see no “new tolling costs landing on Oregon motorists, many of whom are already battling to make ends meet.”
In 2021, the state legislature passed a bill that requires the Oregon Department of Transportation to study and eventually implement lower tolling rates for low-income drivers. Approved were the following details: All Oregon and Washington residents who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty levels will receive at least a 50% discount on tolls.
Paying tolls electronically has become easier with modern technology eliminating the need for toll booths.
Although the goals of equity and inclusion are repeated often by project organizers some residents of Hayden Island, North Portland and Vancouver are concerned about having a voice in decision making. They want to know how the new bridge structure will affect their residential communities and livability.
Organizers of the IBR program encourage residents to go to www.interstatebridge.org to learn more, sign up for a e-newsletter, or submit a comment. To visit the IBR office in Vancouver, see interstatebridge.org/calendar to schedule an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments do not have to be in English. Follow @IBRprogram.
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