Momentum, funding builds for Interstate Bridge replacement over Columbia River

Billions of dollars in federal funding are now up for grabs that could help replace the aging I-5 Interstate Bridge that connects Washington and Oregon.

The Interstate Bridge is more than 100 years old and is one of our region's most vital pieces of infrastructure. The bridge spanning the Columbia River carries traffic and cargo from Canada to Mexico, and everywhere in between.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell toured the bridge on Wednesday and shared how federal funding would help pay for its replacement. 

"The race is on to meet that criteria and qualify this project for federal dollars," said Cantwell. 

House Transportation and Infrastructure committee member, Rep. Marilyn Strickland, said the bridge must be brought up to 21st century standards to serve our people and economy.  Built on a sandy foundation, an earthquake will likely destroy today’s crossing. Also, today's stretch of infrastructure is one of the last drawbridges part of the nation’s interstate system.  

The last attempt to build a new crossing failed when Washington state lawmakers killed the project nearly a decade ago. This year, legislators pledged $1 billion for a new bridge. Now, billions of federal dollars earmarked for infrastructure projects could be key to success this time around.  

"We cannot afford to fail again," said Greg Johnson, administrator for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program. 

Oregon lawmakers will reconvene in 2023 to determine their share of funding. While tolls on the bridge have been gone for decades, Johnson says their return is likely inevitable. 

"We are looking at the most equitable tolling practices around the country to make sure low-income folks won’t be punished for having to go to work," he said.  

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