Columbia River Crossing project is dead

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s over.

After more than a decade of work on a new I-5 bridge connecting Portland and Vancouver, the project is dead.

Gov. Kitzhaber said continuing with the Columbia River Crossing project would require funding from the Oregon Legislature before the end of the session and a signed agreement with the state of Washington by March 15.

They didn’t.

Plans called for widening part of Interstate 5, replacing the bridge and extending Portland’s light-rail to Vancouver.

Kitzhaber and other bridge proponents said it would improve safety and decrease congestion.

Now, the 125,000 people that commute across the Columbia every day will be driving on the bridge for the foreseeable future. An ODOT spokesperson told KOIN 6 News they are “saddened by the development because the problem still remains.”

After more than 15 years of work and $195 million spent on a replacement for the Interstate Bridge, the project is over.

“I’m sad that we’ll walk away with nothing,” said Vancouver City Council member Larry Smith.

The project included lightrail and tolls for those driving over the bridge. Both issues remained controversial. On top of those controversies was the cost. Washington state pulled out of the project last year, leaving Oregon’s legislature with the massive project.

Smith said he was “sympathetic” to Oregon’s decision. “That’s a tough political decision because Washington dropped the ball.”

No one disputes the Interstate Bridge is showing its age. Twice since November, the bridge became stuck during a lift, backing up traffic for hours.

Engineers said it would fall into the Columbia in a large earthquake.

It currently costs $1 million each year to staff the bridge maintenance crew, plus an additional $1.2 million annually for repairs. An axle pulley will need to be replaced in the next 10 years, and that will cost up to $12 million.

The bridge also needs to be repainted at an estimated cost of $75-80 million.

But that is all still less expensive than a new bridge at $2.8 billion.

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