Efforts to replace the outmoded I-5 bridge spanning the Columbia River took a key step forward this week when the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) released a comprehensive inventory of bridge data.
WSDOT was directed to conduct an inventory of existing data from previous efforts to replace the bridge as part of Senate Bill 5806, which establishes a process for moving forward on a new I-5 bridge that can ease traffic congestion, improve safety and resist an earthquake.
“The specific information that can be applied to a new bridge project will depend on the scope and type of bridge as a plan takes shape, but the past technical information and environmental studies are particularly likely to be useful,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver and one of seven southwest Washington lawmakers who collaborated for months to develop SB 5806. “It would make no sense to waste time and money duplicating work that’s already been done.”
The more-than-140-page inventory is the result of 20 years of project work, including 10 years of intensive project development, on a bridge plan that came up short in the final days of the 2013 legislative session.
“The existing drawbridge is a choke point that averages 400 collisions a year; by 2030, when the bridge carries increasingly more vehicles and increasingly more large pieces of equipment by truck, the number of collisions is projected to double,” said Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver. “In addition to the need for improved safety and reliability, a new replacement I-5 bridge is critical for future economic growth.”
“We need a bridge. We know we need three or four bridges, and to get there we need a process that is open and transparent and balances competing interests every step of the way,” said Sen Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver. “Our constituents demand and deserve no less. Moving commerce and people is vital in our county and in a state where we are a leading exporter. Addressing congestion relief for economic growth and freight mobility has to be a top priority in this process.”
“This is the first of the many steps in developing a comprehensive solution for southwest Washington’s transportation needs, particularly as they pertain to bridges linking Washington and Oregon,” said Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.
The other area lawmakers who have been working on the effort are Representatives Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, and Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver.
SB 5806 also called for the creation of a joint Oregon-Washington legislative action committee to address a variety of concerns including the process for developing a new I-5 bridge and appropriated $350,000 for the inventory that was released today to be conducted, and the committee work to begin.
The full inventory, including a summary of specific sections, can be accessed at this link.