When Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) last year, it provided a historic once-in-a-generation funding opportunity to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure systems.
As part of the funding package, $12.5 billion was designated for the most “economically significant bridges in the country.”
Important to our region, President Joe Biden named the Interstate Bridge as one of the projects most likely to benefit from this investment.
The Interstate Bridge is a key regional, national, and international transportation link. Replacement of the bridge is critical for environmental, equity, and economic improvements.
The funding provided in the IIJA presents us with a unique window of opportunity. However, in order to fully capitalize on this moment, we must act now. These federal dollars are designated explicitly for essential interstate bridge replacement projects and cannot be used for other transportation programs.
In 2022, the Washington State Legislature authorized $1 billion to fund their portion of the Interstate Bridge Replacement program (IBR). Now it’s Oregon’s turn.
If Oregon’s funding is delayed until mid-2025, this will put immense pressure on the final years of IIJA funding cycles, when much of the funding will already be allocated to other large projects around the country. That is why this legislative session, we will continue our meaningful conversation about Oregon’s contribution to replace the Interstate Bridge.
Part of our conversation will center on the need for increased road safety, which is a critical component of the IBR program’s design for the new bridge.
The IBR team is working hard to address safety across the bridge, which is wholly inadequate now. Not only is the bridge seismically vulnerable, but there are no safety shoulders, which leaves no room for emergency vehicles.
Beyond the bridge itself, the team is considering the safety of all modes of travel through the entire program corridor, which includes active transportation, transit, and roadway conditions.
We learned last month that the program anticipates it will require approximately $6 billion to achieve equitable and climate-conscious multimodal infrastructure through the program corridor (paid for through a combination of Washington and Oregon funding, federal grants, and tolls). This cost estimate reflects 10 years of delay from the prior attempt to replace the bridge, and future delays will only increase the replacement cost.
We want a bridge that is equitable, reduces congestion without inducing demand, and promotes various transit options — each of these components are critical values that Oregonians embrace. It is now time to invest in the future that we want.
We have a time-sensitive opportunity to leverage billions in federal grant dollars and support tens of thousands of jobs across multiple industries throughout construction.
These federal dollars represent an infusion of funding into the regional economy that will only exist with the bridge replacement.
To compete for those federal dollars, we must demonstrate that we have the non-federal matching funds to leverage those programs. It is time for Oregon to join Washington in committing funding for the bridge in 2023.
An investment in replacing the I-5 Bridge means an investment in the long-term viability of our region’s economy. It is an investment in the safety of all multimodal travelers, not just the vehicles it currently serves. Additionally, it is an essential investment in public transit and bike/pedestrian pathways across the river.
We must remain resolved to see these critical investments move to completion. We are fully committed to supporting the IBR program in its delivery of an equitable and climate-friendly multimodal replacement bridge and transportation system that improves the safety of all travelers.