PORTLAND -- The governors of Oregon and Washington announced plans Monday for a replacement for the aging Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River they said will keep the project on schedule and on budget.
Govs. John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Chris Gregoire of Washington decided on a deck truss bridge design, similar to the newer Glenn Jackson Interstate 205 Bridge just to the east. It is not a final design for the entire structure.
At a news conference near the I-5 bridge, the governors said other bridge designs would require delays for additional design work and environmental analysis, increasing the time and cost needed to complete the replacement project.
PHOTOS: Truss Designs
Moving this project to completion in the most cost effective way possible is critical to providing a safer, less congested transportation system, Kitzhaber said.
The two governors said they also chose the deck truss design to take advantage of federal funding opportunities with hopes of breaking ground on the Columbia River Crossing project in 2013.
Our timing is important -- we are seeking nearly $1.3 billion in federal funding for this project, Gregoire said. Nobody has spelled out how to pay the total estimated cost of the replacement bridge, expected to be more than $3 billion. The obstacles could be big. Planners have counted on significant federal help and assumed that users would be charged tolls. But even before Republicans won control of the U.S. House, members of the Oregon congressional delegation raised doubts about the cost.
And tolls are unpopular among commuters from Vancouver, Wash. The current bridge is two spans, one from 1917 and the second from 1958. Commuters and truck drivers complain of congestion, and the structures are considered vulnerable to an earthquake.
Replacing the bridge is a priority for business interests and labor unions on both sides of the Columbia, but planners had spent more than $100 million on it without reaching an agreement that accommodates a variety of interests.
Critics question the cost or say a design that focuses on cars and encourages more traffic will add to the load of greenhouse gases.
Some, like the mayors of both Portland and Vancouver, have said that the deck truss design would be ugly. In addition to the Glenn Jackson Bridge, the design would be similar to the Marquam Bridge that carries Interstate 5 over the Willamette River in downtown Portland.
Kitzhaber has made a push to get the project moving, seeking support from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
In a March speech, Kitzhaber told a Portland audience the project has been around since the last time he was governor, and it's something the state ought to be able to cross off its to-do list. He said he hoped construction would begin in 2013.