Govs. Inslee, Brown announce plans to begin joint project to replace I-5 bridge
Gov. Jay Inslee joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in Vancouver Monday to announce a bi-state effort to replace the Interstate 5 bridge that spans the Columbia River and connects the two states.
“This is a new day,” Inslee said. “We need to replace the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River to benefit both Washingtonians and Oregonians. Our states are separated by a magnificent river but our values are consistent on both sides of the river. We are starting this process anew, moving forward with resources for a project office and a transparent, data-driven process that listens to the community’s needs.”
The aging bridge poses significant safety risks to drivers during an earthquake, and locals consider the bridge a source of major congestion. Brown said seismic resilience is the project’s first priority. The governors are also exploring options around high capacity transit that could reduce overall congestion.
“The current interstate bridge is over 100 years old, and it’s showing its age,” Brown said. “Replacing the interstate bridge is critical to the safety and economies of both Oregon and Washington. Our states are more interconnected than ever, and by working together, we can make our communities and roads safer while we improve mobility and support the economic vitality of our communities.”
The two states have allocated $44 million in funding to open an office for the I-5 bridge project. Brown said the new office will gather community input, explore available federal funding options, incorporate past progress and research, and report back to both state legislatures with a plan.
Roger Millar, secretary of transportation at the Washington State Department of Transportation, also attended Monday’s event. He said he looks forward to working with various groups now that the project is back on the table.
“These are complex and difficult problems to solve but we have the partnership to see this through,” Millar said.
Kris Strickler, director at the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the state-to-state partnership is the most important thing going forward because hundreds of thousands of people cross the bridge each day.
“Those bridges have been out there for more than 100 years — at least one of them has — and we need to build something that lasts that long or at least longer,” Strickler said.
In 2017, Washington re-established a baseline of planning information that kept the focus on I-5 and helped move the project forward. This year, the state secured an important extension from the federal government to keep transportation funding options open.
And, in 2015, Washington secured more than $98 million for key infrastructure projects. The money went toward projects such as the I-5 Mill Plain Boulevard interchange (an integral part of the I-5 bridge project) to ease traffic congestion.
Inslee and Brown met with area transportation leaders, stakeholders and legislators during their time in Vancouver.
After the events in Vancouver, Inslee traveled to Salem to join Brown in meetings with legislators at the Oregon State Capitol.
Inslee and Brown co-authored an op-ed in The Oregonian on the subject.