$600 Million to Be Invested by Feds Into New Interstate Bridge Connecting Washington and Oregon
The Interstate 5 Bridge is a century-old structure that crosses the Columbia River, connecting Oregon and Washington. It’s a bridge not only to connect those who want to travel with ease across the west coast, but it also serves as a vital commercial link for the entire west coast. It’s estimated that over 130,000 vehicles travel over the bridge daily, with many of them carrying commercial goods. It’s safe to say that it’s a vital piece of the land, and in order for it to stay that way, the bridge is due for some upkeep.
It’s now in the process of being rebuilt, but it’s no easy task. It’s an interstate bridge, after all, but after an entire century of existing, the infrastructure needs to be updated so that those crossing from state to state can have the safest transition possible. There will also be modifications to better fit a busier modern day. Along with being more seismically sound, the bridge will be fitted with two more lanes, as well as a light rail connection into Vancouver.
The light rail had been a point of contention in 2014, where the first attempt to rebuild the bridge had failed over opposition from Washington lawmakers over the light rail.
The effort to rebuild the old bridge is expected to cost roughly $7 billion, which is nearly $3 billion higher than previous estimates. Those planning it have banked on the expectation that at least $2.5 billion of it will be covered by federal grants.
Well, the bridge now has its first large grant from the federal government in the form of a $600 million award. The news was broken by delegates from Washington, championing this grant given to the project by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
This is a win for both the states of Oregon and Washington, as every bit of money from the federal government takes pressure for funds off of the two states. Both states have pledged to invest $1 billion into it so far, but the bridge will need a lot more than that in order to be properly constructed.
The grant program was drafted by Maria Cantwel (D-Washington), U.S. Senator and a chair for the senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee. In a written statement, she called the grant a “big win for the State of Washington”.
She went on to explain that bridges as old as the Interstate 5 Bridge were not designed to fit the volume of people and freight it carries today, and because of that, it’s become a sort of “pinch point” for the economy, as well as an annoyance for commuters in general. It essentially tapers growth, she claimed.
Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden was also celebrating the funding. On Friday, he stated that he desired to see more funding from the federal government, even calling the $600 million grant a “down payment”.
This is especially good news for several sources surrounding the project, many of whom fretted a few days ago that the grant itself would only be $300 million — a significantly less sum that would entail a pattern of Oregon and Washington footing almost all of the bill.
Senators in both states took risks by aiming so high, and they paid off. This funding will push the project closer to truly breaking ground, which planners believe will happen in 2025. It’s a bit of a ways away from now, but definitely closer now that the bridge has help from the federal government. Planning has been in the works for a while now, after all, with an even longer discussion as to its replacement.
Democratic State Senator for Washington Patty Murray had begun discussions of bridge replacement in 1992, more than three decades ago. She herself helped secure the grant back in 2021, when she helped to negotiate Congress’ massive infrastructure package.
While the $600 million grant for the interstate bridge is swiftly approaching, there could be more federal money on the horizon. Having feared that the money would only be $300 million, planners put in a $1.5 billion grant application to the Federal Highway Administration.
The results of that request will most likely be announced in the Spring. If it’s granted. It will go a long way in providing Oregon and Washington the bridge they need.
Statements from Oregon Officials
Securing this funding was a big win for many officials, both in Washington and in Oregon. Many have been coming out to give their thoughts on being awarded this vital grant for their bridge.
Senator Ron Wyden, along with calling the funding a “down payment”, spoke about how jobs and the Oregon economy were “big winners” with a modern interstate bridge. With the funding from the federal government and a lack of toll costs on Oregon motorists (many of whom are having trouble making ends meet already), Wyden promised to see this project to completion. He also said he was looking forward to pursuing all available routes for federal investment, as the bridge has the power to economically change the entire state.
Senator Jeff Merkley championed Friday as a “historic day” for Oregon. He discussed not only how the bridge would benefit everyday Oregonians and the economy, but also the fact that the projects would bring about many good-paying union jobs.
Oregon Governor Tina Kotek harped on how replacing the interstate bridge was a critical infrastructure investment for the local communities, two states, and all of the West Coast. She also made sure to bring up the environmental impact, which is equally as important. She made note of how the project would advance their goal of reducing emissions through a modern, multimodal bridge. Kotek also made sure to mention its importance to the economy and how it would support local jobs and broader workforce opportunities.
Rebuilding the bridge may cost quite a bit, but it’s clear that its impact all around will be more substantial to both the economy and the everyday commuters who use it.