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Washington and Oregon Governors make Bi-State Commitment to Replace I-5 Bridges

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2008

VANCOUVER – Governor Ted Kulongoski (OR) and Governor Chris Gregoire (WA) today were joined by state and local officials to announce a bi-state commitment to replacing the Interstate bridges that connect Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

“If I-5 from Seattle to San Diego were an hourglass – everyone here knows the location of the narrow hole through which the sand must pass: The Interstate Bridge that connects Vancouver and Portland,” Governor Kulongoski said. “We only have two choices. Do nothing and watch our economy sink, or invest in a multi-modal solution that strengthens our economy and enhances this region’s quality of life.”

“The tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis was a wake-up call to this nation,” Gregoire noted. “The interstate bridges that connect Vancouver and Portland are heavily used and aging, and it is time to replace them in the name of safety as well as economic vitality.”

Since 2005 the Columbia River Crossing Taskforce has been bringing stakeholders together to advise Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT ) and Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) on issues and concerns of the Columbia River crossing project. The 39-member Task Force is composed of leaders from a broad cross section of Washington and Oregon communities, including public agencies, businesses, civic organizations, neighborhoods and freight, commuter and environmental groups.

The taskforce is considering five options that would increase safety, reduce congestion on the bridges, and increase freight mobility. An option also includes mass transit, including light rail, and other conservation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This spring, the state transportation departments will issue the draft environmental impact statement for public comment, with a final record of decision expected early next year.

“Right now there are more questions than answers. Cost, size, location, light rail, federal participation, public support – and financing – are all under discussion,” Governor Kulongoski continued. “But ignoring the problem will only make it worse. If we stick with the status quo, the hours of congestion northbound will double to more than 13 hours a day by 2030. That’s why I favor a new bridge across the Columbia River.”

Gregoire said neither state can afford to do nothing while the problem continues to grow.

“Delays are intolerable, as are potential dangers to public safety,” she said. “We need to find solutions, and find them soon.”

The interstate bridges were built in two separate projects, northbound in 1917 and southbound in 1958. Today the bridges carry an average of more than 127 thousand vehicles a day across the Columbia River between the two states. The bridges, each about 2/3 mile long, are lift bridges to accommodate national and international marine traffic. The lifts operate 20 to 30 times a month, with the most lifts in the winter when the water levels are highest. Lifts usually stop Interstate traffic for about 10-15 minutes; in order to avoid lifts during peak hours, The Oregon Department of Transportation negotiated with the Coast Guard and marine traffic in the late 1990s to create "no lift" periods from 6:30am to 9am and from 2:30pm to 6pm weekdays to help reduce some congestion.

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