When the northbound section of the Interstate Bridge opened in 1917, it was the first automobile bridge that crossed the river between Washington and Oregon. There was a 5¢ toll, per vehicle or horse, to cross the 38-foot-wide roadway. Electric streetcars operated across the bridge from opening day in 1917 until 1940. The bridge became part of Interstate 5 in 1957. Along with the new interstate system came a second parallel bridge, which opened to traffic in 1958 and required a toll for vehicles crossing the bridge.
Local Native American tribes frequented the shores of the Columbia River and routinely traveled on the river to trade and practiced usual and accustomed traditions since time immemorial. The bridge was built in the shadow of historic Fort Vancouver, which has transitioned over the years from a fur trading post, to a military fort, to today’s National Park System National Historic Site.
Why the Interstate Bridge will be replaced
Interstate 5 provides a critical connection between Oregon and Washington that supports local jobs and families, and is a vital trade route for regional, national and international economies. Beyond the concrete and steel of the existing bridge is a thriving background of scenic views, natural systems, and a rich history of our region’s national heritage.
We understand the vital link the bridge plays in connecting the region and the importance of the natural environment and health of our community. We are committed to finding a solution that will improve our transportation system, now and in the future
Extensive community and stakeholder engagement has demonstrated widespread agreement that the six transportation problems previously identified with the Interstate Bridge remain current issues that need to be addressed:
- Growing travel demand and congestion
- Seismic vulnerability
- Safety concerns as a result of existing roadway design
- Impaired freight movement
- Inadequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities
- Limited public transportation
Restarting bridge replacement efforts
Recognizing that needed improvements remain unaddressed, Washington and Oregon each dedicated funding in 2019 to restart Interstate Bridge replacement work. The states’ governors and legislative leaders directed ODOT and WSDOT to open a bi-state project office to complete the planning, design and construction work.
ODOT and WSDOT are jointly leading these efforts in coordination with eight other bi-state partner agencies: TriMet, C-TRAN, Oregon Metro, the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, the cities of Portland and Vancouver, and the Ports of Portland and Vancouver. These agencies have a direct stake in future improvements because of their roles within the region’s integrated, multimodal transportation system. Together with ODOT and WSDOT, they will provide coordinated regional leadership throughout program development.
Bi-state legislative involvement will also be essential to successfully complete the planning and design process and move to construction. Each state legislature has identified eight lawmakers to provide direction and oversight to shape IBR program work.
Comprehensive and equitable community engagement is at the foundation of decision making for the Interstate Bridge Replacement program to identify a bridge replacement solution that best serves the complex needs of communities in Washington and Oregon. To support these goals the program has formed three advisory groups to provide feedback and recommendations: Executive Steering Group, Equity Advisory Group, and Community Advisory Group.
Steps to replace the bridges
Based on the program’s current schedule, it is estimated that construction could begin in 2025. Before construction could begin on a replacement bridge, WSDOT and ODOT will need to work with partners to:
- Complete the federal environmental review process
- Obtain necessary state and federal permits
- Finalize project design
- Develop a finance plan
- Secure adequate funding
- Complete right of way acquisition
- Advertise for construction
The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program is committed to following a data-driven, transparent process that prioritizes equity and inclusion. The program will leverage previous planning efforts to update and improve upon past work to identify a solution that meets current and future community needs and priorities. This work will occur through joint efforts of the partner agencies in coordination with federal partners, permitting agencies, state and local elected officials, tribal governments, community stakeholders and the public.