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Source : Wikicommons
December 24, 2023
Author : Patty Allen
The Interstate bridge between Washington and Oregon was built in 1917 across the Colombia River. According to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, almost 132,000 cars crossed the bridge each weekday in 2021.
Older bridges were never built to carry this volume of people and freight. As a result, they constitute a bottleneck for the economy and a source of frustration for daily commuters, stifling economic growth.
Thus, a revamp of the century-old I-5 Bridge is long overdue. With a substantial influx of funding, the administrative wheels are now turning in its favor.
The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) will provide a $600 million grant for the year-long effort to refurbish the bridge. The states of Washington and Oregon have each publicly pledged a billion dollars toward this project.
But even more funding is needed from federal and state authorities as the estimated cost of replacing the bridge is around $6 billion. Authorities have stated that they are working to secure $2.5 billion in federal funding, along with the cumulative amount of the tolls collected from cars.
US Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a Democratic legislator from Washington whose district is on the Washington side of the bridge, along with U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, announced the grant award on Friday. US Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, stated, "Today marks a mega win for the State of Washington."
Cantwell, the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee chair, drafted the award program. She has told reporters that the program was essentially made to fit the over-a-century-old bridge during her most recent visits to the bridge.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, described the $600 million grant as a "down payment" and stated that he wanted to see more federal funding for the project to prevent tolling.
According to people familiar with the project, the projected deficit prompted organizers to look for other ways to offset their losses. Planners updated a $1.2 billion grant proposal to the Federal Highway Administration in November and requested $1.5 billion instead, following conversations with lawmakers and the US DOT.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Washington Governor Jay Inslee told the press that they would be pleased to receive any federal funding.
The project is forecasted to break ground in 2025, according to US Sen. Patty Murray and US Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, both Democrats representing Washington state.
Murray mentioned that she and Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield had begun discussing the need to rebuild the bridge in 1992. She mentioned that while negotiating Congress's major infrastructure package, which was enacted into law in 2021, she contributed to the grant program's funding.
"For decades, I have made clear to the people of Southwest Washington that I will stick by their side and fight for a new I-5 Bridge crossing," said Patty Murray. "Today, I am proud to have delivered this funding."
To make sure the project got the funding, freshman representative Gluesenkamp Perez claimed to have "pushed" transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg in recent weeks.
"I'm excited these efforts have paid off," as reported by Gluesenkamp Perez. "From day one, it's been my mission to bring our federal tax dollars back to Southwest Washington to replace the deteriorating, functionally obsolete I-5 bridge."
We may be about to see more federal support. The $1.5 billion grant application for the project should have its results revealed in the spring.