December 8, 2011

Feds greenlight $3B Wash.-Ore. interstate transit link

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) approved plans to replace the aging Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing Bridges and build an interstate transit link.

The Record of Decision (ROD) represents the final clearance of the project's environmental review and allows Oregon and Washington to begin right-of-way acquisition and construction.

The Columbia River Crossing project will replace the I-5 bridges over the Columbia River that connect Vancouver, Wash., to Portland, Ore. At a cost of approximately $3 billion for bridge, transit and highway improvements, the project is considered a long-term, comprehensive solution to address safety and congestion problems on five miles of I-5 from State Route 500 in Vancouver to Victory Boulevard in Portland and will be funded through a combination of state and federal sources.

In addition, numerous improvements to bike/pedestrian facilities will accommodate the bridge’s 1,000 daily pedestrians and 5,000 daily bicyclists anticipated by 2030.

The nearly three-mile light rail portion of the project will extend from Portland’s Expo Center MAX station to Clark College in Vancouver. It is expected that the transit rail project will reduce the duration of daily congestion on I-5 near the Columbia River by 60 percent. By 2030, the light rail line is expected to carry more than 22,000 daily passengers.

The current I-5 crossing of the Columbia River consists of two side-by-side bridges. The bridge carrying northbound traffic was built in 1916, and the bridge carrying southbound traffic was built in 1958. Both bridges are inadequate to carry the current traffic volumes, and the mechanical lift spans that are raised to accommodate river traffic bring interstate traffic to a standstill.

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