Regional consensus on what to study in the federal environmental review process moves the IBR program into the next phase of the process
PORTLAND – The bi-state Interstate Bridge Replacement program announced today, Thursday, July 21, that its Executive Steering Group reached a unanimous recommendation to move the program’s Modified Locally Preferred Alternative into the federal environmental review process for further study – the next step in addressing the Interstate 5 bridge between Washington and Oregon. Following the steering group’s meeting, the recommendation also was discussed with the members of the Bi-State Legislative Committee for their direction and guidance to the program as work moves into the next phase.
For the past year and a half, Executive Steering Group members have collaborated in an iterative process leading to today’s action, including endorsement of the Modified LPA by the boards, councils and commissions of each local partner agency in recent weeks. Members of the Executive Steering Group include the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation, which are jointly leading the Interstate Bridge Replacement program effort; the co-chairs of the Community Advisory Group; and the eight local partner agencies of the cities of Portland and Vancouver, TriMet and C-TRAN, the ports of Portland and Vancouver, Metro and the Southwest WA Regional Transportation Council.
The IBR program’s recommendation was also informed by regular meetings with the Bi-State Legislative Committee, and with the program’s Equity Advisory Group and Community Advisory Group. Ongoing community engagement, including more than 30,000 touchpoints with members of the community, was also instrumental in shaping the recommendation, along with in-depth planning, modeling and evaluation work that has occurred since the program started in 2019.
“The overwhelming support the project has received from our partner governments in the last few weeks shows there is broad consensus on replacing this bridge,” said Kris Strickler, director of ODOT. “I am also excited to see each partner’s commitment to remain focused on equity, the economy and climate goals as we further the design of the new seismically resilient, multimodal bridge.”
“Regional endorsement of the Modified LPA is an important milestone that demonstrates there is local alignment on some key elements to study further,” said Roger Millar, WSDOT secretary of transportation. “It means we have collectively identified a concept to test through the federal environmental review process, but it is one of many steps in the decision-making process for the IBR program before we determine the details of what we are going to build. As we move forward, it is critical that we continue to work together with our partners as complex and difficult decisions need to be made.”
The Modified LPA identifies the following elements local agency partners agree should move forward for further evaluation through the environmental process:
- Connect existing transit systems by extending light rail from Portland to Vancouver.
- Construct a partial interchange at Hayden Island, and a full interchange at Marine Drive.
- Include one auxiliary lane northbound and one auxiliary lane southbound between Marine Drive and Mill Plain Boulevard to accommodate the safe movement of vehicles and freight.
Other assumptions in the Modified LPA include additional corridor interchange improvements, replacement of the North Portland Harbor Bridge, active transportation improvements, variable rate tolling, and the continuation of the C-TRAN express bus service and current/future bus rapid transit lines.
The Modified LPA will undergo additional evaluation and analysis in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement process, which includes opportunities for formal public comment. Refinements and enhancements to elements of the Modified LPA may be identified as part of this work, along with additional design details. After updates are made to address public comments and additional analysis, a combined Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement and Amended Record of Decision will be published, with the goal to start construction in late 2025 or early 2026 after final permitting and funding sources are secured.
“Achieving regional alignment around a locally preferred alternative is a significant milestone demonstrating that our region is serious about getting a replacement bridge built,” said Greg Johnson, IBR program administrator. “As we move into the environmental process to further refine the Modified LPA and help determine additional details of the multimodal corridor solution, we will continue to invite input from the community and balance the needs and priorities of the entire bi-state region for all travelers, including freight, automobiles, transit and active transportation. We understand the vital link the Interstate Bridge plays in connecting the region and are committed to a multimodal solution that will improve our transportation system, now and in the future.”
About the bi-state Interstate Bridge Replacement program
Replacing the aging Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington with a modern, seismically resilient, multimodal structure that provides improved mobility for people, goods and services is a high priority for Oregon and Washington. Governors and legislative leadership in both states directed the Oregon Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation to launch the bi-state Interstate Bridge Replacement program to lead this work, recognizing that needed safety and transportation improvements to the existing Interstate Bridge remain unaddressed. Program development work centers on equity and follows a transparent, data-driven process that includes collaboration with local, state, federal, and tribal partners.
Comprehensive and equitable community engagement that minimizes barriers to involvement and proactively seeks to include equity priority communities is critical to successfully identifying a bridge replacement solution that reflects community values and can earn broad regional, bi-state and national support. The Executive Steering Group, Community Advisory Group, Equity Advisory Group and community events are key components of comprehensive community engagement efforts to ensure ongoing, extensive and inclusive public dialogue.
Ongoing bi-state legislative involvement is essential to successfully complete the planning and design process and move to construction. Together, the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee and the Joint Interim Committee on the Interstate 5 Bridge meet jointly (referred to as the Bi-State Legislative Committee), with 8 members from each state. The Bi-State Legislative Committee provides ongoing guidance and oversight of key program work.