Questions & Answers

What do you want?

An I-5 bridge replacement project ASAP.

Why is it needed?

The current I-5 bridge spans are functionally obsolete, chronically congested, and facing costly maintenance and seismic upgrades. The I-5 bridge lift span is the only “stop” on I-5 from Canada to Mexico, and one of only six remaining on the entire interstate system. Narrow shoulders, short merge zones and an unusual hump make this a particularly dangerous roadway.

How old is the bridge?

One of the I-5 spans opened in 1917, a century ago. The other opened in 1958.

How much traffic does the bridge handle?

About 135,000 vehicles daily on I-5. It is a critical economic lifeline for the entire West Coast but considered one of the worst choke points in the country for freight and commerce. Prevailing speed averages just 9 miles per hour during morning commute times.

Is the situation getting worse?

Yes. I-5 and I-205 together carry daily traffic that is approaching 300,000 trips. Combine that with our region’s population growing at nearly 2 percent a year and we have a severe transportation crisis brewing. That’s why we need to fix 5 now.

How should this get done?

A bipartisan group of Washington legislators are working on a process (via SSB 5806) and has reached out to engage with Oregon legislators. We want to see both states work together to initiate a project pathway by December 2018.

What should the bridge look like?

A replacement bridge needs to be something that can support people, freight and commerce for decades to come. We prefer a practically designed solution that can be built quickly, endure a seismic event and meet our needs for a long time.

Aren’t the bridges safe now?

On the north side alone, there were 585 accidents from 2012-2016. New spans would be safer, with modern features such as shoulders, better on-off merge lanes, no lifts, and no sight-blocking humps.

What would happen in a significant earthquake?

The current I-5 bridge support system is not anchored in bedrock. It sits on wood pilings in soil that could liquefy in an earthquake. Plus, the liftspans’ counterweight design could be damaged easily by a moderate earthquake.

Will it include tolls?

A bridge funding package would likely require multiple funding sources. Project-specific tolls are a possibility. The two current I-5 spans were paid by tolls, as have other crossings between Oregon and Washington.

Will it include mass transit?

Any primary road needs mass public transit although the specific mode or approach would be explored through planning. About one-in-six citizens are transit-dependent and the percentage is growing.

Will it include light rail?

There is broad interest in flexibility as our transportation patterns and preferences change while also recognizing the need to have seamless mass transit integration throughout the region. Light rail or bus rapid transit are two early possibilities.

Why not another bridge?

Legislators have signaled their support for replacing the I-5 bridge as the most reasonable and cost-efficient path forward. A third bridge would require decades of planning, right-of-way acquisition and legal challenges just to get started. Meanwhile we still need to fix the I-5 corridor and bridge.

Might we need an additional bridge and corridor?

Perhaps. It should be considered as our region comes to grips with growth and long-range transportation planning. The first place to start, however, is fixing I-5 now.

What about bridge design and height?

Legislators will likely direct transportation agency leaders to work out project plans.

Is this just the CRC again?

No. It’s a new day and time for a new bi-partisan plan. Past work definitely will be used to accelerate a new project or projects.

What went wrong last time?

The project lacked broad enough support and momentum in its final stages of approval. This time, the conversations are beginning with broad bipartisan support and a focus on practical solutions.

When might we expect a new bridge?

We need it now and the need is growing. Experts predict a groundbreaking about 2-3 years after a project and funding package can be settled, given the required environmental impact and permitting work. The longer we wait, the later the work begins.

Is it true we have to pay back the feds for past planning work if we don’t build a bridge?

Probably, if a replacement bridge project isn’t soon started. Applications for waivers have been rejected.

Isn’t this a “federal” problem?

Federal policy puts maintenance of existing interstates in the hands of states, which invest state and federal transportation funds.

What if we do nothing?

We will have to invest heavily to keep the tired old bridge operating. But our people, lifestyle and economy will suffer the consequences.

What can I do?

Add your voice and spread the word. We need to demonstrate broad community support for fixing I-5 now. This includes family, coworkers, employers, nonprofits, churches and government bodies.

What’s next?

Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates and action requests along the way. This work will take time, but our community’s vitality is at stake and we need a sustained sense of urgency to get this done.

Who is behind this effort?

Many organizations and community leaders are supporting this work. This effort is being hosted by the private business group Identity Clark County, which views fixing I-5 as its top priority.