An effort to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge connecting Portland, Oregon, and southwest Washington over the Columbia River is set to receive $600 million in federal funds.
The grant will come from the Department of Transportation’s National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) program, which supports projects too complex or large for traditional funding programs.
The Interstate 5 bridge is a key connection between Washington and Oregon, handling more than 130,000 vehicles daily. However, the structure is more than 100 years old and faces the risk of collapsing during an earthquake.
Both states are collaborating on the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, which includes replacing the bridge and transportation infrastructure nearby.
Oregon and Washington lawmakers have said the new bridge will help reduce carbon emissions and vehicle congestion because of its ability to handle multimodal transportation.
“This project will help advance our goal of reducing emissions through a modern, multimodal bridge and will provide an infusion of federal funds to our region that will support local jobs and broader workforce opportunities,” Oregon Governor Tina Kotek said in a statement.
The project is estimated to cost between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. Construction is expected to begin in late 2025 or early 2026 and will be completed between 2031 and 2033.
Both states will contribute $1 billion to the project. Tolls are also expected to be another source of revenue to cover the project costs. Oregon and Washington expect $1.25 billion to $1.6 billion in anticipated revenue, according to project documents.
Oregon and Washington are seeking an additional $2.5 billion from the federal government for the project. The states plan to tap the Federal Highway Administration Bridge Investment Program and the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program, which accepted the program into the project development stage in September for those funds. The project is currently going through the federal environmental review process.
The current bridge costs $1.2 million per year to operate and maintain, and will require an estimated
$270 million in capital maintenance by 2040. That amount does not include the cost of retrofitting the bridge to handle seismic events.
The project includes improvements to seven interchanges, north and south of the Columbia River, as well as related enhancements to the local street network.
The replacement of the North Portland Harbor Bridge, light-rail extensions from Portland to Vancouver, Washington, and construction of an access bridge connecting Hayden Island to Marine Drive are also planned.
Solicitations for construction are anticipated in 2024.
Photo by Chris Light