Oregon News

I-5 replacement bridge costs: $6 billion, with luck

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By JIM REDDEN
Oregon Capital Bureau

The replacement Interstate 5 bridge from Oregon to Washington will most likely cost $6 billion to build, program administrator Greg Johnson said on Friday.

The first official estimates for the project released Friday ranged from a low of $5 billion to a high of $7.5 billion. Johnson said he is hopeful the program team can hold the cost to $6 billion and maybe even lower.

“The low estimate is if everything goes right and falls into place with no problems. The high estimate is if everything goes wrong. We are confident we can keep the costs within the range,” Johnson said.

The cost estimates were scheduled to be presented to the Bi-State Legislative Committee composed of lawmakers from Oregon and Washington on Monday.

The new estimates are nearly double the cost from the Columbia River Crossing project that died in 2013 when Washington legislators balked at helping to fund it at the last minute. The estimates are also higher than the $4.5 billion to $4.8 billion building the CRC was project to cost as recently as 2020. Johnson is not surprised.

“Nothing gets cheaper as time goes on. Construction projects across the country are experiencing unprecedented cost increases due to supply chain issues and increasing material and labor costs as well as other factors, and our program is no exception,” Johnson said.

Despite the increase, Johnson is confident that funding can be raised from the following sources:

  • Existing state funding: $100 million
  • Connecting Washington transportation package: Mill Plain Interchange, $98 million
  • Move Ahead Washington transportation package: $1 billion
  • Anticipated Oregon funding: $1 billion
  • Toll funding: $1.25 to $1.6 billion, consistent with toll revenue estimates for the CRC
  • Federal grants: $860 million to $1.60 billion
  • Federal Transit Administration New Starts Capital Investment Grants: $900 million to $1.1 billion

The current Modified Locally Preferred Alternative design for the replacement bridge and associated improvements includes: replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River; one auxiliary lane southbound and northbound, and three through lanes; extension of light rail transit from Portland to Vancouver to connect the existing bus rapid transit complemented by express bus service; the addition of three new light rail station locations including the at-grade Evergreen station; replacement of the North Portland Harbor Bridge; a partial interchange on Hayden Island; a full interchange on Marine Drive; and a bridge from Marine Drive to Hayden Island for access to North Portland.

Some design elements may change as the projects goes through the federally-required draft environmental impact statement process and additional public outreach.

According to Johnson, preliminary work such as relocating utilities could begin as early as late 2025, with actual construction beginning in 2026 and continuing for four or five years.

The current Interstate Bridge consists of two spans. The first was completed in 1917 and the second nearly identical companion was opened in 1958. Both are drawbridges that must be raised for taller ships to pass under the bridge, bringing all vehicle traffic on I-5 to a halt in both directions. Neither meets current earthquake standards.

More information is available at the program’s website at interstatebridge.org.

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