Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The following is a background paper by Rep. Liz Pike on proposed bridge solutions over the Columbia River between Clark County, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. You may also download a printable brochure of this information here.
I-5 Practical Design Flyover:
A new cross-river solution for Southwest Washington
Since the demise of the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC), I've worked to bring legislators, stakeholders and interested parties together from both Washington and Oregon to seek a bipartisan cross-river solution that would improve freight mobility and reduce traffic congestion on the Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor. We cannot simply walk away now that the deeply flawed CRC project has been put to rest. As our region grows, so will traffic congestion. Now that Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd have pulled out of Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, hundreds of thousands of those shipping containers are now being diverted to other ports and carried by trucks onto the local interstate highways. So congestion will only get worse.
In June 2014, I helped to organize a meeting of a group of legislators from Washington and Oregon to initiate discussions on new solutions to connect the two states over the Columbia River between Clark County and Portland. Twelve legislators attended the Bi-State Bridge Coalition meeting. It was clear that a few raw nerves still exist after years of planning on the CRC. But legislators also recognized we need to move forward on a new plan that leaves behind some components, such as light rail and tolling that doomed the CRC project.
We later opened this discussion to transportation engineers in the region who wished to share their professional opinions on a path forward for new cross-river solutions in the I-5 corridor. One idea is what we are calling the I-5 Practical Design Flyover (I-5 PDF). A flyover design refers to an expressway that does not contain exits or off-ramps.
The proposed flyover would launch from the area of the Mill-Plain/I-5 interchange and head straight south, bypassing main intersections at Marine Drive and Hayden Island. The existing I-5 bridge structures and freeway would remain. Upon completion of the new structure, the old spans would convert to a local access frontage road and serve as exits and on-ramps from the new bridge structure for access to downtown Vancouver and the Hayden Island/Jantzen Beach areas. The repurposed I-5 spans could be modernized to create safer bike and pedestrian access, as well as wider lanes for local traffic.
Any new solution would require both federal and state funding, with the largest share from the federal government since I-5 is an interstate highway. That means we also need to have support from Congress. In March 2015, I co-signed a letter to Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler outlining the I-5 PDF proposal and seeking her support. I have since met with her and we are working together for solutions to the I-5 congestion problem.
In April 2015, I worked with Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, to author Amendment 354 to the 2015-17 transportation budget that would have provided $100,000 for the creation of a bi-state bridge legislative work group. See the press release here. The House initially approved the amendment. Unfortunately, funding for the work group was stripped in the final compromise transportation operating budget.
I also reached out in a letter to Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, asking for her support in creating a similar work group in Oregon that could meet and plan with Washington legislators. Unfortunately, her response showed there is still some bitterness to the loss of the CRC. She told us that “a bi-state conversation regarding the I-5 corridor will have to wait for another day.”
Nevertheless, I remain undeterred. I am committed to moving forward with the understanding that several very important things must happen:
- We must recognize the CRC is permanently dead, put it behind us and move on.
- We need to show leadership and acknowledge that traffic problems will continue to get unbearable unless we get started now on solutions that will be workable from both sides of the border.
- Before we can build any solutions over the Columbia River, we must rebuild bipartisan and bi-state relationships between Washington and Oregon legislators.
- Whatever proposal is put forth must not only have the support of Oregon and Portland, but voters in Vancouver and Clark County must also be given equal respect in determining a better, more affordable and workable solution that does not force light rail upon them.
I welcome your thoughts as we seek bi-state solutions that will bridge our communities together into the future. Email me at email@example.com or call my district office in Camas at (360) 210-4534.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"