I-5 bridge design gets thumbs up from construction unions


Building trades unions reacted favorably to the April 25 announcement by governors John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Chris Gregoire of Washington that the new Interstate-5 Columbia River Crossing bridge would be built with a deck truss design.

“It’s a home run,” said John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council. “We weren’t nearly as concerned about the design of the bridge as we were about moving it forward in a timely fashion.”

Timing is important as the states are seeking nearly $1.3 billion in federal funding for the project, which is estimated to cost $3.6 billion overall.

At a press conference on Hayden Island, the two governors identified the deck truss bridge as the best replacement structure for the aging I-5 bridge because it provides the most certain path to keep the project on schedule and on budget. The other bridge options under consideration would require delays for additional design work and environmental analysis, which would add time and cost to the process, they said.

“We must secure a federal record of decision on our design this year to ensure the best chance of receiving full funding,” Gregoire said. “The only way we get federal dollars is by making a decision. We have listened and listened and listened to the public at large. We have listened to experts, as we should. That’s why this project is moving forward. One thing I can guarantee you … is that some point along the process, somebody has to stand up and make a decision.”

Hopes are to secure the funding and break ground on a new bridge in 2013.

The CRC is seeking $400 million in federal highway discretionary funding as well as $850 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts funding. Additional funding will come from the two states and tolls.

Kitzhaber and Gregoire have asked their respective legislatures and state treasurers to immediately begin working with the departments of transportation to review and refine the financing plan and toll revenue assumptions. The bi-state collaborative approach, they said, will minimize financial risks and provide accountability and oversight as the project moves toward construction.

Mohlis believes the goal is attainable. “I think we’re in a really good place at the federal level. We have full support from our Congressional delegation and support from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.”

LaHood has called the Columbia River Crossing “a forward-thinking multimodal project that will not only serve area residents, but create jobs, spur economic development, and help ensure that the region’s economy continues to thrive.”

Mohlis said studies show the bridge and surrounding infrastructure work will create or retain 27,000 jobs — 17,000 in the construction industry.

Kitzhaber said the decision “is a strategic commitment to make transportation investments that reflect the realities of the future, not the past. Moving this project to completion in the most cost effective way possible is critical to providing a safer, less congested transportation system.”


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