(The Center Square) – The pursuit of federal funding continues for a planned multi-billion dollar bistate project to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportationthe current span is to be replaced “with a modern, seismically resilient, multimodal structure that provides improved mobility for people, goods and services” in Washington and Oregon.
The project has an estimated price tag between $3.2 billion and $4.8 billion that is to be funded by Washington, Oregon, and the federal government.
Washington and Oregon’s state governments are each expected to contribute $1 billion to the project.
The Washington State Legislature this year passed the nearly $17 billion, 16-year transportation packaged dubbed “Move Ahead Washington,” which includes said funding for a new I-5 bridge. Roughly another third of the project cost would come from tolling revenue.
Ray Mabey, assistant program administrator for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program and a state bridge engineer for the Oregon Department of Transportation, updated the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee on efforts to secure federal funding for the mega project during a Monday morning virtual work session.
“Federal funding is one of those key pieces,” he told the committee.
Mabey pointed to a recent success in acquiring federal dollars in the form of being awarded a $1 million Bridge Investment Program Planning Grant to carry out a planned ground-improvement study in the program area.
The ODOT and WSDOT submitted a joint application for the grant request, Mabey explained, with ODOT leading the process.
Both agencies have jointly applied for a $750 million construction grant for the project, Mabey added, and expect to hear back from the federal government at the end of next year or early next year.
Federal money is also being pursued via the US Department of Transportation’s Mega Program in support of large, complex projects, as well as the Federal Transit Authority’s Capital Investment Grants Program to fund transit capital projects.
“All told, these three grants could reach $2.5 billion, and so we’ll be pursuing as much as we can out of those grants,” Mabey said.
Other federal grant opportunities are being explored as well.
“We’ll be looking to see if we can expand the federal dollars in the program as much as possible,” he said.
Mabey is confident the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program is a good match for federal funding.
“As these programs were developed, it does seem that they are well suited for a program of our size and attributes,” he said.
Mabey cited the fact the project is multi-modal, connects communities, and is a dual state endeavor.
“The attributes of our program seem to match these fairly well and seem well aligned,” he said.
In 2013, the Columbia River Crossing, as the project was known at the time, was done in by the Washington State Senate’s failure to advance a $450 million transportation package that was expected to contribute to the project. Oregon had already signed off on the project, but Washington’s support was required to make it happen.
Earlier this year, eight government boards endorsed a project concept that includes a bridge over the river with three through-traffic lanes, an additional auxiliary merge lane in each direction, a light-rail link to Vancouver, and a separate bridge for local traffic from North Portland to Hayden Island, one of four major islands in the Portland metro area.