WA officials announce $600M grant for I-5 Bridge replacement

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Contributed photo courtesy Washougal School District Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton (far right) adminsters oaths-of-office to Washougal School Board members Jim Cooper (far left), Angela Hancock (second from left) and Ida Royer on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Sens. Maria Cantwell (WA) and Patty Murray (WA) recently announced that the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) Program – the organization tasked with replacing the I-5 Bridge connecting Southwest Washington and Portland – will receive $600 million in federal funds from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, or Mega program.

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez has spoken directly with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and hosted White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in September to underscore the urgent need for this funding to help replace the I-5 Bridge. Additionally, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez, Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Murray co-led a bipartisan Washington delegation letter in August in support of the states’ Mega grant application.

The I-5 Bridge project received the highest amount of funding out of 11 awards nationwide. This year, the DOT sought applications for $1.8 billion in Mega program funding from Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024 advance appropriations. Today’s grant marks the second federal grant awarded to the current bridge replacement project; the first, a $1 million seismic study grant, was awarded in October 2022.

The DOT award will fund between 8% and 12% of the total bridge replacement project cost, which is estimated to be between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. The bridge replacement project remains eligible for other sources of federal funding, including the DOT Bridge Investment Program and the Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant Program.

“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. It’s the only way we get this huge project done. I pushed for critical Mega program funding every time I spoke with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and I brought White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu to tour the bridge and understand the project,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez.

The I-5 Bridge is a crucial linchpin in both the regional and national economy and plays a vital role in transporting freight along the I-5 corridor. IBR reports that $132 million worth of freight crossed the I-5 Bridge daily in 2020. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, an estimated total of $97 billion in goods traveled by truck either from Washington to Oregon or California, or from Oregon or California to Washington in 2022.

The route is also vital to international exporters; in 2021, nearly $2 billion worth of goods from California and $750 million worth of goods from Oregon were trucked to Canada via the I-5 corridor. According to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council an average of 131,747 vehicles crossed the bridge each weekday in 2021, including many of the 65,000 Clark County residents who work in Oregon.

The bridge is rated the worst truck bottleneck in Washington and Oregon and the fifth-worst on the West Coast, with seven to 10 hours of congestion during the morning and evening commute periods.

In addition, there are significant issues with the aging existing bridge. One span is more than a century old and the other is more than 65 years old. Neither span has had a seismic retrofit, which is a significant concern in a region susceptible to earthquake activity: the entire structure is at risk of collapse in the event of a major earthquake.

Annual maintenance costs are about $1.2 million per year and larger maintenance projects needed to simply maintain the bridge are expected to cost $280 million by 2040. These maintenance costs are split equally between the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation.