What is different about a phased project/what is the same?
Currently, an Oregon-led phased approach is being discussed. This would build the replacement Interstate bridge, Oregon interchanges (Marine Drive and Hayden Island), light rail and the SR 14 interchange during the first phase of construction. Washington interchanges north of SR 14 would be built as Washington funds are identified. This phased approach still addresses the identified problems of congestion, freight mobility and safety.
The project costs for the individual major construction elements of the phased option have not changed. Construction of the phased option is estimated to cost $2.71 billion.
The project funding sources for the phased option are the same, but for the necessary landing improvements to SR 14 (approx. $140 million). The SR14 costs would be covered by the toll range or extending the life of the toll, instead of using WA state funds. Funding sources include:
$850 million –FTA New Starts funds
$450 million – Oregon state funding sources
$1.1 – 1.5 billion –Tolls, backed by TIFIA loan, toll bonds, or other state bonds, and adds payment for SR14 interchange improvements (approx. $140 million) necessary to land the bridge.
What work has been completed to review an Oregon-led phased project?
Permitting and engineering work, as well as a legal and financial reviews, have been completed since July 1, 2013. This work is being used to evaluate an Oregon-led, phased I-5 bridge replacement project. All documents are available online here.
Has the Oregon Treasurer's Office reviewed the financial viability of an Oregon-led project?
ODOT has provided information requested by the Oregon State Treasurer’s office to assist in their financial review of an Oregon-led project, including refreshed traffic and revenue analysis and revised CRC project finance plan.
On Sept. 3, 2013, Oregon State Treasurer office staff issued a status report including the following statement:
“While critical legal and operational issues remain unresolved as of the date of this memo, an analysis of the basic funding plan based on the cost projections provided by CRC project staff suggests that the revised project is financially viable at current interest rates, even under the most pessimistic toll revenue assumptions,” given certain conditions are met.
Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler issued a letter of findings on Sept. 26, 2013, reiterating the need for certain “viability requirements” to be met, including:
Toll reciprocity agreement with the State of Washington that allows Oregon to collect tolls and set toll rates
Agreements with the State of Washington related to construction in Washington
A dedicated source of funds for operations and maintenance of light rail
A general bridge permit from the United States Coast Guard
$850 million FTA New Starts grant
$900 million TIFIA loan
ODOT is actively working toward each of these items and several of these conditions have been completed (USCG general bridge permit and light rail operations and maintenance agreement). ODOT continues to engage with the Oregon Treasurer, including work on an investment-grade traffic and revenue analysis, expected in December 2013.
What are the findings of a bi-state legal review of the Oregon-led, phased approach?
The Oregon Department of Justice and Washington Attorney General have reviewed the Oregon-led, phased approach and issued opinions related to each states’ interests. These documents can be found online here:
Does Gov. Inslee support a phased project?
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made several statements regarding an Oregon-led, phased project. In September 2013, Inslee responded to a request from a group of businesses in Oregon and Washington to move forward with an Oregon-managed bi-state project, stating the concept “merits further investigation and I’ve directed WSDOT to do a thorough review of its feasibility.” He subsequently requested a legal review by the Washington Attorney General on issues related to light rail operations, permitting, mitigation agreements and tolling. That opinion is online here.
In response to leadership of Washington’s Majority Coalition Caucus in October 2013, Inslee discusses the legal reviews made by the Washington Attorney General that would allow Oregon to construct, operate and maintain a bridge, as well as Washington’s role in a tolled facility.
How is the timing of Oregon's funding commitment connected to the project schedule?
The project schedule assumes project construction begins in December 2014, taking advantage of the permitted in-water work window for initial bridge foundation work. A timeline shows the number of critical steps related to federal funding and state actions for project development and procurement- each dependent on a state funding decision – necessary for a 2014 construction start.
How does the federal funding process work and why is there confidence that money will be available for the project?
The I-5 bridge replacement project is seeking significant federal support in the form of a New Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A window of opportunity for federal funding exists over the next year thanks to passage of MAP-21, the federal surface transportation act, which funded both programs at robust levels. When MAP-21 expires on Sept. 30, 2014, funding levels for these programs may change—particularly because the Highway Trust Fund will exhaust its balances, potentially forcing deep cuts. The sooner the project can start the lengthy federal grant review processes by submitting applications for New Starts and TIFIA, the more likely it will secure the amounts called for in the finance plan; delaying by several months introduces significant risk of losing federal financial support.
Additional information on the project’s status with FTA New Starts and TIFIA is available here
Is a public private partnership being considered?
All contracting methodologies will be considered.
What is the Columbia River Crossing Project?
The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project is a long-term, comprehensive solution to address seismic risk, safety and congestion problems on I-5 between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. The Oregon and Washington transportation departments will replace the I-5 bridge, extend light rail to Vancouver, improve closely-spaced interchanges and enhance pedestrian and bicycle pathways. A phased construction approach is under discussion. If it moves forward, the first phase of construction would be led by Oregon and would include the replacement bridge, light rail, Oregon interchanges and the SR 14 interchange (improvements required to land the bridge) in Vancouver. Interchanges north of SR 14 would be built as Washington funds are identified.
Why do I-5 and the Interstate Bridge need to be improved?
There are significant safety and congestion problems in the five-mile project area between SR 500 in Vancouver and Victory Boulevard in Portland. The collision rate in this section of I-5 is nearly double that of similar urban highways in the region. Narrow lanes, short on-ramps and a lack of safety shoulders on the Interstate Bridge contribute to crashes. Bridge lifts occur an average of once a day, stalling all traffic using I-5, adding to unsafe driving conditions and increasing accident potential.
Furthermore, the current bridge structures are vulnerable in the event of a significant earthquake. The current Interstate Bridge structures were built in 1917 and 1958, respectively. Wooden pilings supporting the piers extend into the river bed approximately 60 feet, but not to the rock of the Troutdale Formation approximately 200 feet below the surface. There is a risk of structural failure of the bridges during a seismic event, which could cause the river soils to act as a liquid.
If no changes are made, congestion will grow from today’s four to six hour daily traffic jam to 15 hours per day by 2030 as the region accommodates a million more people (Source: Metro Regional Government).
The problem definition provides additionaldetails.
How will people benefit from the project?
Project improvements are estimated to reduce collisions by 70 percent over the No Build option. The addition of auxiliary lanes and safety shoulders will allow traffic to flow smoothly and safely. The replacement bridge will not have a lift span which will reduce the number of collisions. The bridge also will include full safety shoulders.
Expanded commuter travel options
Clark County residents will be connected to TriMet’s 53-mile light rail transit network, providing a reliable trip that is not subject to highway congestion.
A new bike and pedestrian path will enhance travel by foot and bicycle among the communities of North Portland, Hayden Island and Vancouver with improved connections and improved designs.
Congestion will be reduced by approximately 70 percent compared to taking no action. Fewer hours of daily congestion surrounding the Interstate Bridge will result in predictable travel times and time savings for drivers. For example, northbound peak period travel will be 20 minutes shorter between Rose Quarter and 179th in Vancouver.
Improvements will provide travel reliability and better access to the Vancouver and Portland regions’ businesses, marine terminals, airports, industry, rail lines and agricultural areas.
The CRC project will treat approximately 100 million gallons of polluted storm water each year, and reduce stop and go traffic on the highway and on connecting streets. The result is improved water quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The replacement Interstate Bridge will be built to current seismic standards to prevent loss of life during a major earthquake. Pilings supporting the bridge piers will extend past the liquefiable soils of the Columbia River bed to underlying rock of the Troutdale Formation.
The replacement bridge will be designed so that it remains functional with minor repairs after a seismic event that has a probability of occurring once in 500 years. Additionally, the bridge will be designed so that it will not collapse when subjected to an event that has a probability of occurring once in 2,500 years. The intent of this design is to prevent loss of life in the event of an earthquake.
Strengthening the regional economy
Improving access, increasing safety and enhancing travel reliability will increase the overall competitiveness of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region to attract and retain businesses. The project is estimated to create $5 to $8 billion in economic benefits in 2030 over the no build option, including the creation of 4,200 long-term jobs.
When will construction start?
The project currently is in its pre-construction phase. Provided funding is secured in 2013, CRC could begin construction activities as early as 2013. Major bridge construction would begin in late2014. The current project schedule can be found here.
If light rail were built on the same level as the bridge deck, how much additional clearance would be available? Are there other impacts of changing to a single-level bridge?
If light rail was moved to the top deck and bridge type remained the same, there would be little additional vertical clearance for vessels. The clearance is being driven by engineering standards due to the bridge type, not the placement of light rail or the multi-use path on the lower deck. Some additional height could be gained with a change in bridge type or number of structures. However, there would be potential for greater environmental impacts, a schedule delay associated with the design change, potential for worsening navigation in the river channel and the need for additional environmental reviews and approvals, which would result in further cost associated with schedule delay.
Is the bridge height too low for existing river users?
At 116 feet clearance, over 99 percent of all current and future river users will be able to travel under the bridge. Based on updated river survey information, there are three river users and one vessel that would be impacted by the proposed height of the bridge. Mitigation agreements have been signed with the three affected businesses and the U.S. Coast Guard issued its General Bridge permit on Sept. 27, 2013.
Why can’t we just build a new bridge without doing other improvements?
In 2005, CRC with its partners and the public identified six transportation problems in its Statement of Purpose and Need: high crash rates, congestion, impaired freight movement, seismic vulnerability, limited public transit options and reliability and substandard bicycle and pedestrian facilities. To address the identified problems, CRC will use integrated solutions of high capacity transit, enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities, tolling, and bridge and highway improvements to address all six problems. Early project analysesshow that just replacing the Interstate Bridge would not address all the problems in the corridor.
The boards and councils of all six local partner agencies (Metro, RTC, Portland, Vancouver, TriMet, C-Tran) unanimously passed resolutions supporting a replacement bridge with light rail as the locally preferred alternative (LPA) in 2008. The LPA selection occurred after a multi-year process that began in 2005 with local stakeholders, elected officials, and federal, state, and local agencies. This led to its formal selection by the project owners, WSDOT and ODOT. The same agencies reaffirmed the LPA when they signed the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2011.
What is the risk to the existing bridges during an earthquake?
The existing bridge spans do not meet modern seismic standards and are vulnerable to damage or collapse in an earthquake. A 1994 report for ODOT found several components of the bridge could be overloaded in a seismic event. The piers of both existing structures are built on top of wooden pilings. The sandy layer of soil that supports the bridge piers could lose strength in an earthquake and may begin acting like a liquid (liquefaction), which could result in downward movement of the pilings, piers and superstructure.
In addition to sub-surface problems, the bridge superstructure shows several seismic vulnerabilities. The lift towers and unrestrained counterweights are structurally inadequate for the movement caused by a major earthquake. Additionally, many truss members and connections may be overstressed.
A 2006 CRC seismic vulnerability analysis can be found here.
Why not keep the existing bridges?
There are several compelling reasons to remove the existing bridge structures:
The bridge is a traffic bottleneck now and will continue to be in the future, even if a supplemental bridge was built.
The bicycle and pedestrian pathway is narrow and substandard.
Safety shoulders are not present.
Bridge lifts for river vessels and maintenance stop interstate traffic, contributing to congestion, poor transit reliability, collisions, air pollution and backups to local streets.
The “hump” in the middle of the bridge contributes to collisions because drivers traveling the speed limit cannot see if vehicles are stopped in front of them.
A costly upgrade to the bridge would be necessary to provide earthquake protection.
Barges must make a difficult “s” turn in the river to avoid a bridge lift or wait until designated hours to call for a lift.
For these reasons, retaining the bridges would not solve the safety, congestion, and mobility problems on I-5.
Upon completion of the new bridge, can you salvage and re-use the existing bridge?
As part of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) permitting process, the CRC project will explore opportunities for reuse or salvage of the existing bridge spans. The project developed a Bridge Marketing Plan to support these efforts.
Would renovating the rail bridge one mile downstream eliminate most bridge lifts?
No. Half of all bridge lifts are required for maintenance and non-commercial river traffic. Modifying the location of the movable span on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad bridge would not eliminate the majority of bridge lifts and would not address the high rate of collisions near the Interstate Bridge.
Has the project considered building a third bridge?
Yes. Early project studies looked at third river crossings west and east of I-5. These studies found that the third crossings would not adequately address the existing or future transportation problems on I-5 including collisions, congestion, freight immobility and earthquake risk. A list of other crossing alternatives studied by the project can be found in the Components Step A Screening Report.
The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and Metro are the agencies responsible for researching and considering other river crossings and additional highways in the region. In their 2008 Transportation Corridor Visioning study, RTC identified possible third crossing locations and developed a proposed set of routes for further study.
Can bus rapid transit replace light rail?
Changing the major components of the project at this stage would change the project and the environmental documentation would need to be reevaluated and potentially restarted. In addition, the assumptions in the financing plan, which show state and federal funds in 2013, would no longer be accurate.
The analysis in the environmental impact statement as well as the analysis submitted to the FTA over the past years documents who light rail was selected instead of bus rapid transit. The project’s technical work and the sponsor agency support for including light rail is represented in the Record of Decision, received from the FHWA and FTA.
For more information about why light rail was selected over bus rapid transit, see below.
Was bus rapid transit considered for the project?
Yes, bus rapid transit was considered in project planning. Light rail was selected over bus rapid transit by the Vancouver City Council, C-TRAN Board, Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, Portland City Council, TriMet Board, Metro Council, and the bi-state CRC Task Force for the following reasons:
Light rail will travel faster than bus rapid transit within the project area (averaging 17 mph versus 14.5 mph, including stops) because it will have signal priority, shorter wait times at stations, and quicker acceleration. Bus rapid transit would travel in exclusive lanes, but would be mixed with general traffic outside the project area, and would be delayed due to congestion in those areas.
Light rail has more capacity and will carry 6,100 people over the I-5 crossing northbound during the peak period, while the alternatives with bus rapid transit would only carry 5,150 to 5,350 people.
Integration with the existing system will allow transit users to travel between Vancouver and Portland without a transfer. Transfers add travel time and decrease trip reliability and convenience.
Operation and maintenance costs are 25 percent lower per rider compared to bus rapid transit.
ODOT, WSDOT, TriMet, C-TRAN, Metro, Southwest Washington RTC, and the cities of Portland and Vancouver officially selected the locally preferred alternative in 2010, which was endorsed by FHWA and FTA in the Record of Decision.
How will the project improve transit on I-5?
The project will provide a new transit option with the extension of light rail from the Portland Expo station across Hayden Island and through downtown Vancouver to Clark College. This extension of the MAX Yellow Line will provide riders with transit access to stations throughout the Portland metro area. Existing express bus service to downtown Portland will continue, or connect with the new light rail line.
Will there still be express buses?
Yes. Light rail would be complemented with express bus service to provide direct access for Clark County residents to downtown Portland during peak commute hours.
Where will the new light rail extension end?
Can increased transit take the place of a new bridge?
Even with increased transit ridership, travel demand on I-5 is expected to grow. There are safety issues with the existing bridges and the highway that can’t be addressed by increased transit service. Safety improvements will lead to better traffic flow and benefit freight, all vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
What’s the long term plan for high capacity transit to points north or east of the project area?
Information on future plans for high capacity transit in Clark County can be found in the High Capacity Transit System Study conducted by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.
Will CRC make congestion worse at the Rose Quarter?
No. The project reduces the total hours of congestion in the CRC project area and greatly improves the northbound afternoon commute from the Rose Quarter. Our traffic analyses show congestion will not worsen at the Rose Quarter as a result of the CRC project. In the vicinity of Going Street, for example, the forecast 4-hour AM peak period traffic volume for both the build and no-build scenarios is just under 23,000 vehicles.
In the morning 35 percent of the southbound traffic coming from Washington exits I-5 within two miles of the bridge. However, traffic volumes increase nearer the Rose Quarter as traffic enters I-5 from north Portland. Use of tolls and light rail minimize traffic volumes on I-5 in the Rose Quarter from CRC.
The southbound traffic congestion that currently exists near the I-5/I-405 split will not be improved by the CRC project. The Oregon Department of Transportation and the City of Portland are currently working on a project that is reviewing this portion of I-5.
How will the project help freight?
The region’s economy is heavily dependent on trade. One in five jobs in Oregon and two in five jobs in Washington are tied to trade. In 2005, $40 billion in freight crossed the Interstate Bridge, a number that is anticipated to grow to $70 billion by 2030.
The CRC project will address safety and congestion problems on the five-mile segment of I-5 that serves as our region’s primary export hub. The project will improve five collision-prone interchanges that provide the primary access to the ports of Portland and Vancouver, downtown Vancouver and key industrial areas. Additionally, it will provide upgraded safety features on the new I-5 bridge, such as shoulders and auxiliary lanes to facilitate merging.
How will the project affect safety, travel times and reliability?
Various bridge, transit and highway improvements made by the project will help increase safety, improve travel times, and improve reliability compared to doing nothing by 2030. Key elements of the project and their benefits include:
Replacement of the lift span bridges with higher, fixed bridges that will reduce delays and crashes associated with bridge lifts
Improved geometrics, improved capacity, and safety shoulders that are predicted to result in up to 75 percent fewer collisions
Improved highway and interchange capacity that will produce 5–15 percent less congestion on local streets
Improved interchanges and ramps with better grades and increased freeway capacity that will improve freight mobility
Improved freeway and interchange capacity that will result in 28-minute shorter round-trip commute between Clark County fairgrounds area and Rose Quarter
Improved light rail transit to Vancouver that will help more than double the number of transit passenger trips over the Columbia River each day
Do the improvements result in any real time savings for commuters?
Yes. The project will provide considerable benefits for travel time, reliability and duration of congestion for most bridge users, but not for everyone at all times. Bridge lifts will be eliminated, collisions significantly reduced and traffic will flow more smoothly to and from interchanges. Travel time benefits vary based on time of day, location and travel direction.
There are significant travel time savings, especially in the PM peak period. In 2030, it is estimated that drivers heading north on I-5 from I-84 in Portland to 179th Street in Vancouver are predicted to save 20 minutes compared with the no-build scenario. Drivers using the short segment of I-5 from Columbia Boulevard to SR 500 are predicted to save eight minutes compared with the no-build scenario. For drivers traveling southbound during the morning peak, the time savings will not be as significant, but the trip will be more reliable and safer. For drivers traveling outside of the peak commute hours, there are significant travel time savings both northbound and southbound because vehicles will experience much less congestion than with the no-build scenario.
Additionally, the duration of congestion on the bridge is substantially reduced, from a predicted 15 hours a day in 2030 under the no-build scenario, to approximately 5.5 hours with the project. The highway and transit improvements will save travelers about 6.8 million hours per year in reduced auto and truck delays, and transit riders will have major time savings as well. By 2030, the equivalent traveler time savings will exceed $435 million per year.
Will the project keep HOV lanes on the highway? Will the current ones be expanded?
Currently, the CRC project intends to keep the existing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on northbound I-5 between the Going St. and Marine Dr. interchanges. Plans for additional HOV lanes would be made on a regional basis in the future.
Can we rely on traffic forecasts with all the volatility in gas prices and other factors?
The region is expected to grow by about one million people in the next 20 years. Growth in population and employment, the primary drivers of traffic growth, occurs in spurts with intermediate plateaus or even declines.
Traffic count data marginally declined between 2006 and 2009 at some locations when compared to historical daily volumes. This was the result of the stagnant economy and slowing regional population growth, as well as increased price of fuel over that time period. It is typical for traffic volumes to decline during a recession and to rise during boom periods. These fluctuations are expected. Based on the most recent counts, evidence suggests that traffic volumes are resuming their long-term upward trend on both I-5 and I-205.
There is evidence that recent increases in gasoline prices affected automobile driving habits. Over the longer-term, as motorists become aware of the costs of driving, there is a shift to more fuel efficient vehicles and other long-term strategies for coping with the higher prices.
How was the Locally Preferred Alternative selected?
The process to develop, review alternatives and design the Columbia River Crossing project began in 2005, not counting the years of regional planning work. The public, stakeholders and partner agencies identified six project area problems. Seventy different ideas for potential solutions were suggested and discussed by partner agencies, the CRC Task Force and the public.
Out of 70 ideas to address corridor problems, 31 were combined into 12 preliminary multi-modal alternatives. Each alternative included several transportation considerations: bridge, highway, transit, freight, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and strategies to reduce travel demand. The project team and others evaluated these preliminary alternatives to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. Following stakeholder and public input, the project team recommended five alternatives for further analysis in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
In 2008, after three months of public hearings, community comments, meetings, and agency reviews, the project team identified the project elements that best meet the needs of improving safety and mobility with the least impact on natural resources and local communities. Those elements included replacing the I-5 bridge, extending light rail to Vancouver, improving safety by addressing closely spaced interchanges, and enhancements to the bicycle and pedestrian path. The Vancouver and Portland City Councils, C-TRAN and TriMet boards, and the Regional Transportation Council and Metro Council all supported this alternative.
In 2011, state and local sponsors again signified their support to complete the planning phase by signing the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which identified the locally preferred alternative. The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration approved the preferred alternative in the Record of Decision in 2011.
Why was a replacement bridge selected instead of keeping the existing bridges and building a supplemental bridge?
Technical findings in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) show that a replacement river crossing would provide greater congestion relief, more traffic capacity, safer highway features, greater improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, safer river navigation, have less community effects on Hayden Island, and better accommodate future waterfront development compared to the supplemental crossing.
The six local project sponsors considered these findings along with the Task Force recommendation and about 1,600 public comments when they selected a replacement bridge as part of the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) in July 2008.
What are the differences in the Final EIS compared to the Draft EIS?
The Draft EIS contained analyses of the effects of five alternatives studied. In 2008, based on the Draft EIS and comments by agencies, advisory groups and the public, project sponsors selected one alternative – a replacement bridge with light rail.
Since the preferred alternative was adopted, the project has worked with the community to:
Select the number of structures for the replacement bridge
Select a location for light rail and the bicycle and pedestrian pathway on the replacement bridge
Select an alignment for the Marine Drive interchange
Select a light rail alignment and station and park and ride locations in Vancouver
Update the traffic analysis using the 2009 regional travel demand model
Update the design for the SR-14 interchange to minimize impacts to the Vancouver Historic Reserve
Refine the design for the Hayden Island interchange, which now includes a local traffic bridge between Hayden Island and Marine Drive
Select a deck truss bridge type for the main river crossing
The Final EIS includes a description of these refinements and the results of the analyses of the community and environmental effects.
Did you consider the “Common Sense Alternative”?
The Common Sense Alternative (CSA) concept includes three new bridges plus structural improvements to two existing bridges. The five elements of this multiple bridge concept were considered by CRC during the component and alternative screening process. Findings for each element are summarized below:
1. Construct a lift span on the BNSF rail bridge to align with the high point of the existing I-5 bridges (leave the rail bridge’s existing swing span in place near the Washington shoreline)
This element, in combination with seismic upgrade of the I-5 bridges and a new multi-modal bridge between Hayden Island and Vancouver, was considered in 2007 and subsequently eliminated in favor of other options that better met the project’s Purpose and Need.
The CSA would add a lift span to the privately-owned BNSF rail bridge and would retain the existing swing span, increasing the operations and maintenance that would be necessary on the BNSF bridge.
Adding a lift span could reduce the number of times the I-5 bridges would need to lift, but it would not eliminate the need for bridge lifts. The I-5 bridges would still need to lift for occasional taller vessels, during high water and for regular monitoring and maintenance. Project analysis has found that half of Interstate Bridge lifts are required for maintenance and non-commercial marine traffic.
Northbound collisions are three times more likely when the lift is raised than when it does not. Southbound collisions are four times more likely.
2. Construct a new local bridge across North Portland Harbor to/from Hayden Island
This element is included in the CRC project. The CRC project worked with local stakeholders to develop a design for the interchange; which includes a local multimodal bridge to carry traffic to/from Hayden Island and Marine Drive. The interchange design allows all movements to and from the island and I-5, but also provides a local route to the island without accessing I-5. This design allows for the elimination of direct ramps between Hayden Island and the Marine Drive interchange, and improves traffic operations on the I-5 ramp terminals and reducing the Hayden Island interchange footprint.
3. Construct a new rail and truck bridge near the BNSF rail bridge
Improvements to the rail bridge and truck-only access were considered early on, but did not advance through the early screening process.
A new rail and truck bridge would not provide sufficient benefits to the I-5 corridor to because it does not directly connect downtown Vancouver and downtown Portland.
Under existing conditions, trucks traveling between the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Portland make up less than 0.5 percent of freight traffic using the southbound I-5 bridge and less than 0.5 percent of freight traffic using the northbound I-5 bridge (based on the 2005 travel demand model). Truck traffic makes up over 8 percent of daily I-5 bridge traffic. A new rail and truck bridge connecting the Port of Portland to the Port of Vancouver would serve very little of the I-5 freight traffic.
Commuter rail would have difficulty integrating with the existing bus and rail network; its location would miss some key I-5 transit markets; and it would be subject to the projected congestion of the existing freight rail system.
4. Provide a seismic upgrade of I-5 bridges
A seismic upgrade of the existing I-5 bridges was studied through the Draft EIS. Ultimately a replacement bridge was found to better meet vehicular and marine travel and seismic needs.
The CRC will build new bridges to current highway geometric standards, which would substantially improve safety and traffic flow. Seismically upgrading the existing bridges would not address the majority of safety and traffic flow issues that currently exist, such as short spacing between on- and off-ramps, short substandard ramps, the lack of breakdown lanes or shoulders, and the vertical “hump” in the existing bridges, which all have been documented to increase the rate of crashes and congestion.
A seismic retrofit of the existing bridges would require widening of the existing piers in the river and would narrow the high-span and lift span navigation channels by 40 to 60 feet, decreasing the width of the main channels for commercial river users.
5. Construct a new multi-modal bridge between Hayden Island and Vancouver between the existing I-5 bridges and the BNSF rail bridge
This element is similar to the “arterial crossing with I-5 improvements” that the CRC Task Force considered and dismissed in 2007.
Traffic analysis during the screening phase reported that an arterial bridge would not alleviate congestion on I-5 because it wouldn’t pull a significant amount of traffic off of the interstate.
The traffic analysis for the screening process indicates the CRC would reduce northbound I-5 travel times compared to the new arterial bridge alternatives by about 50 percent or more (e.g., I- 84 to 179th Street travel time decreases by 22 to 26 minutes).
A new arterial bridge would reduce total daily hours of congestion by approximately 10 percent compared to no-build, while a replacement bridge would reduce the total daily hours of congestion by approximately 60 percent compared to no-build.
An arterial bridge would tie into local streets at the bridge touchdowns in Vancouver and on Hayden Island, thereby increasing congestion in downtown Vancouver, on Hayden Island and near Marine Drive.
What alternatives were analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement?
The alternatives studied were:
• No build
• Replacement bridge with bus rapid transit
• Replacement bridge with light rail
• Supplemental bridge with bus rapid transit
• Supplemental bridge with light rail
The results of the analyses are described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was published on May 2, 2008.
What other bridge options were considered?
Many congestion relief ideas have been proposed and analyzed as part of the CRC project. Several were rejected because they did not address the project’s goals as identified in the Purpose and Need. Others were dropped when a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) was selected. Some of the bridge options considered but not advanced include:
• Third highway river crossing
• Arterial bridge
• Upstream bridge
• Supplemental bridge
• Improvements to I-205
More information on bridge options considered and why they did not advance can be found here.
What other transit options were considered?
Many transit ideas have been proposed and analyzed as part of the CRC project. Some of the transit modes considered before selecting light rail include:
• Commuter rail
• Street car
• Bus rapid transit
Information on other transit modes considered prior to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found on the Alternatives Considered page.
Why did the CRC project study a "no build" alternative?
A no build alternative is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and serves as a baseline for comparison with other alternatives. Under this scenario, the existing Interstate Bridge and public transit systems would remain. Only improvements likely to receive funding and be constructed in the Metro and southwest Washington regional transportation plans were considered.
Why not build a tunnel under the river?
Building a tunnel was one of the several river crossing options considered by the project. It is possible to build a tunnel, but it would be difficult to match a tunnel with the existing grades of the roadways on either side of the river. This would cause the tunnel to bypass at least two interchanges in the project area that provide access to: Vancouver City Center, SR 14 and Hayden Island. A tunnel would also require the creation of an intricate system of arterials east and west of the tunnel for vehicles to access the portals in and out of the structure. This arterial system would require more acquisition of right of way and result in more environmental and archeological effects than other alternatives considered.
How much will the project cost?
Currently, an Oregon-led phased approach is being discussed. This would build the replacement Interstate bridge, Oregon interchanges (Marine Drive and Hayden Island), light rail and the SR 14 interchange during the first phase of construction. This work is estimated to cost $2.71 billion. Washington interchanges north of SR 14 would be built as Washington funds are identified.
Why will the project include improvements to the Steel Bridge, a light rail facility in Gresham and money for a museum?
The project includes several improvements made or planned in response to policy direction, federal approval of the project's Record of Decision, and to meet federal and state regulations that require project mitigation.
Light rail maintenance facility
Expansion of the existing Ruby Junction maintenance facility in Gresham, Oregon is necessary to accommodate the light rail vehicles that will operate on the new I-5 bridge. Storage of train cars is required during off-peak travel times and to conduct regular maintenance, cleaning and repair. Expanding an existing light rail facility rather than building a duplicate one in Clark County with duplicate maintenance personnel provides the most cost effective solution
Steel Bridge upgrades
Trains that travel from Vancouver to downtown Portland must cross the Steel Bridge across the Willamette River. All trains that cross at this point, including trains from Clark County, will need to increase their travel speed at this crossing in order to avoid system delays. Modifications to the Steel Bridge would improve the existing light rail transit track and electrical system, and increase the overall system capacity by allowing increased travel speeds and therefore more trains per hour.
The Vancouver National Historic Reserve is a cultural resource and park resource, including individual archaeological sites. This designation means that federal regulations require mitigation of impacts to the facility. The CRC project will adversely affect the reserve, including a direct acquisition of land that will remove a portion of the Fort Vancouver Village from federal control and protection. This will result in a loss of visitor access and destruction of portions of the Village, as well as the introduction of visual and audible elements associated with project improvements.
The mitigation plan for these impacts was approved in the Memorandum of Agreement for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the federal Record of Decision in December 2011, and includes the treatment of significant archaeological resources through collection and documentation during project construction as well as the rehabilitation of a building for a National Park Service museum/curation facility. Interpretive elements will include exhibits on the historic properties that are destroyed or otherwise adversely affected and allow access to these collections by the public, consistent with federal and National Park Service guidelines and policy, particularly 36 CFR Part 79.
Do cost estimates include operations and maintenance costs?
How will light rail be funded?
The project will apply for $850 million in Federal Transit Administration funding through the New Starts Program to cover the capital construction costs of light rail. Operations and maintenance costs, as with all similar transit costs, would be covered locally, per an agreement between C-TRAN and TriMet.
How will costs be managed during construction to avoid overruns?
Projects are managed to be completed within budget and ODOT has a strong record of accomplishing an on-time and on-budget delivery record. Every effort is made to identify and account for potential overrun risks in project cost estimates. Cost estimates are reviewed and validated through the Cost Estimation Validation Process (CEVP). This process is designed to anticipate and incorporate potential risks (added costs) and opportunities (cost savings) into the projected costs—thus identifying early on those items that could increase project costs or lead to scheduling delays. Additionally, ODOT intends to engage a third-party, independent oversight team.
The use of CEVP allows for enhanced forecasting and improved focus on risk management. Project estimates include risk and inflation. Inflation costs are estimated in year of expenditure dollars. Risks are identified and quantified and include unknowns. The cost estimate incorporates a contingency of about $650 million for the $3.1 - $3.5 total project, roughly 25 percent.
Did the project study less expensive options than the replacement bridge with light rail?
Yes. The project considered four “build” alternatives and a “no build” alternative when selecting a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). Two of the alternatives would have retained the existing structures and were estimated to have a slightly lower construction cost. However, these alternatives didn’t address many of the safety problems with the existing bridge, provided less relief from congestion and would result in higher long term maintenance costs.
The five alternatives are analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement(EIS).
Information on other options considered can be found on the Alternatives Considered page.
How much has been spent on the project?
ODOT has expended $90,571,301 as of September 30, 2013. Expenditures of federal and state resources are generally proportional to their ratio in the budget (approximately 90 percent federal, 10 percent state). WSDOT expenditures on the project total $94,934,148.
How much will a toll cost?
There has been no decision on toll rates and a public process is required before a toll rate would be adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission. An investment grade traffic and revenue study, to be completed by the end of December 2013, will provide information for determining toll rates. Toll rate assumptions have been included in previous financial analyses, including the final EIS (September 2011) and the September 2013 preliminary toll funds estimate.
Would there be a toll for traffic in both directions?
A toll on the I-5 bridge is assumed to be for all vehicles on the highway traveling in both directions. No toll is expected for individuals crossing the Columbia River on transit, bicycle or by foot.
Will there be toll booths?
No. There will not be toll booths on I-5. The project will use electronic tolling technologies that allow drivers to pay a toll without slowing down or stopping. These technologies have been successfully used on other transportation projects in Washington and across the country. The project will study all the latest technology for automated tolling before selecting the option that best meets the needs of the region.
How does electronic tolling work?
Electronic tolling allows drivers to pay a toll without slowing down or stopping – there are no toll booths. Electronic tolls are collected with a transponder, about the size of a credit card, affixed to a car’s windshield. An overhead sensor links the transponder to the driver’s account and deducts the correct toll from a prepaid account. Drivers can easily manage their account by authorizing payments from a credit card or bank account when the account balance gets low.
Vehicles without a transponder can still use the bridge. Video recognition software would capture the license plate as the car passed the tolling gantry. Vehicle owners could then choose to pay the toll online, by phone or in-person at a customer service center, prior to receiving an invoice. If an invoice is sent it will include a processing fee.
Are there examples of other projects or locations that use electronic only tolling?
Can any travelers receive reduced tolls?
At this time, it is unknown if any reduced cost tolls will be made available. Preliminary discussions about a variety of tolling scenarios will occur with the community in the future. Policy decisions about toll rates will be made in the future by the Oregon Transportation Commission.
Can Oregon toll the existing I-5 bridge?
Tolling of interstate facilities is governed by Section 129 of the United States Code. Tolling of existing interstate facilities is not permissible unless it is for the purpose of “reconstruction or replacement.” Tolling of the existing I-5 bridge simply for the purpose of reducing traffic or generating money for other facilities would not be permitted under Section 129.
When will tolling start?
Under an Oregon-led phased approach, the Oregon Transportation Commission is responsible for setting toll rates and consult with the Washington State Transportation Commission and engage in a public toll rate setting process prior to setting toll rates. Pre-completion tolling will be used to help pay for project construction without needing to issue bonds. A traffic and revenue study currently underway will be used to refine assumptions about future traffic volumes and toll revenue. Pre-completion tolling is assumed to start in 2015, provided construction of the replacement bridge begins in late 2014.
When will the investment-grade tolling and revenue analysis be undertaken and completed?
The work to develop the investment grade traffic and toll revenue analysis began in October 2012. The following tasks are being completed:
Develop and validate a preliminary range of toll revenue and capacity (February 2013)
Conduct a travel pattern and user stated preference survey (October 2012 – March 2013)
Update the preliminary traffic analysis (September 2013)
Prepare a preliminary investment grade analysis report (December 2013)
The September work was based on a more refined preliminary traffic model and will be used to inform future deliberations on the toll policy and toll rates for the CRC project. The December 2013 work will document results from the investment grade traffic and revenue will inform subsequent financing work. By the end of 2013, additional detail will be available and the toll range will be further refined and narrowed. This will be investment grade quality work and will be used to support updated assumptions as we move closer to issuing bonds. In 2014, the work will support several financing activities, such as the toll rate setting process and the TIFIA loan application.
How will CRC improve safety for the traveling public?
The CRC project includes a range of safety and design improvement projects. Some of those improvements include:
• New bridge structures high enough for marine traffic, eliminating the need for a lift span
• Addition of safety shoulders for stalled vehicles and incident responders
• Better sight lines so drivers can see over the crest of the bridge, reducing the potential for rear-end collisions during congested periods
• Add/drop lanes to allow drivers to safely merge into traffic, and improve connections between interchanges
• A wider and safer path for pedestrians and bicyclists
Why are there so many crashes in this stretch of I-5?
Between 2002 and 2006, an average of more than 400 collisions per year was reported on the I-5 mainline and ramps in the five-mile CRC project area. The highest crash location on I-5 in Oregon is within this area at the northbound on ramp from Hayden Island. The standard method of reporting collision rates is measured in collisions-per-million-vehicle-miles-traveled (MVMT). The collision rate experienced on I-5 within the Oregon segment of the project area was 1.08 collisions per MVMT. This rate is nearly twice that of Oregon’s comparable statewide average of 0.55 collisions per MVMT. The following reasons contributed to the high crash rate:
Collisions increase during congestion
Bridge lifts increase possibility of collision three to four times for drivers traveling toward the bridge
Merge areas between closely-spaced interchanges are inadequate
The Interstate Bridge has no safety shoulders and has other substandard features
Trucks are twice as likely to be involved in crashes compared to autos, based on a review of crash data
Collisions lead to societal costs that significantly exceed the costs of congestion. Safety costs include property damage, lost earnings, lost household production, medical costs, emergency services, travel delay, vocational rehabilitation, workplace costs, administrative and legal fees, and pain and lost quality of life. In the Portland-Vancouver region the annual cost of traffic crashes is nearly three times the cost of congestion — $1.762 billion for traffic crashes, and $625 million for congestion.
How will the project improve safety and convenience for people who walk or bike across the bridge?
The project will make significant improvements to the bike and pedestrian facilities. A key feature is a separated path up to 20 feet wide constructed on the lower deck of the new northbound bridge across the Columbia River. Other features include connections of the main path across the river with local streets on Hayden Island, sidewalks and bicycle lanes on the local access bridge connecting Hayden Island with N Expo Road in north Portland; and connections with both local streets and the pathways along the river in Vancouver. The new facilities are being designed to meet or exceed all applicable standards including the Americans with Disabilities Act. More information about proposed bicycle and pedestrian improvements can be found here.
How does the project mesh with planned growth and adopted land use plans in the region?
The project is designed to accommodate planned growth in the region as specified in the adopted land use plans in Oregon and Washington. The adopted land use plans, including those adopted by Metro, the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, Portland, and Vancouver, are designed to accommodate up to one million additional residents in the Portland-Vancouver region in the next twenty years. This growth will produce additional travel demands in the region, though overall traffic is expected to grow somewhat more slowly than either residents or employment. This is due to an expectation for greater use of public transit and alternative modes of travel as well as other land use changes designed to shorten travel distances for some trips.
Some of the key characteristics of the adopted land use plans call for increased development in areas near the project, including downtown Vancouver, Hayden Island, at the Port of Vancouver, at the Port of Portland, and in the nearby industrial areas. Adopted land use plans anticipate higher levels of employment growth in Clark County that will lead to a lower portion of Clark County residents commuting to Oregon for work.
One key concern related to the project was whether it would cause sprawl or other unintended, negative land use consequences. This concern was addressed with a study of induced growth conducted by Metro during summer 2010 using its Metroscope model. This quantitative study also concluded “that the proposal would have negligible impact on population and employment growth in Clark County” when compared to projected growth that would occur with no change to the existing bridge.
Will the project support transit oriented development?
The project supports transit oriented development, reinforcing areas where people want to live, work and shop, without having to rely on a car. Research suggests that light rail is likely to attract more investment around transit stations, which would better allow the cities of Vancouver and Portland to attain locally and regionally adopted land use goals for compact, transit oriented development. CRC promotes walkable, dense land uses by placing transit in the existing urban core of Hayden Island and downtown Vancouver.
How will the project affect air quality?
The CRC analysis for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement found that all alternatives (including no build) would result in a decline of toxic air emissions in 2030:
• Carbon monoxide – 25-26 percent reduction
• Nitrogen oxides – 74 percent reduction
• Volatile organic compounds – 55-56 percent reduction
• Particulate matter – 92 percent reduction
These air quality improvements are primarily due to cleaner fuels, cleaner engines and more fuel efficient vehicles.
The CRC project will incorporate many features which are likely to further reduce emissions, including congestion reduction, highway safety improvements, tolling, more transit options and pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements.
How will the project affect greenhouse gas emissions?
The CRC project is expected to result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to taking no action. The primary way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transportation system is to reduce use of carbon-based fuel. This can be achieved by:
Creating more efficient driving conditions
Reducing the amount of driving
Developing more fuel-efficient vehicles
Reducing the carbon content of fuel
Eliminating bridge lifts, charging bridge tolls, adding transit, improving existing infrastructure and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian facilities is expected to help the region reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An independent panel validated with CRC’s conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced with the project.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement includes an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the project. The Locally Preferred Alternative is expected to reduce regional emissions by approximately 0.5 percent. For the 12.2-mile length of I-5 surrounding the CRC project area, the LPA is expected to reduce emissions by roughly 5.4 percent during the AM and PM peak periods. See Chapter 3.19 of the FEIS, Cumulative Effects, for a summary discussion of climate change.
How many jobs will the project will create? Will the project result in the loss of small business jobs?
The net economic impacts of the project, including traveler savings and market access and connectivity improvements for businesses, will result in the creation of 4,200 jobs and $231 million in additional wages in 2030 compared to the “no build” scenario. In addition, approximately 20,975 total job-years (defined as one job for one year) will be required for design and construction of the locally preferred alternative (LPA). The average annual regional jobs required will be 1,906 over the 11 year construction project. These estimates include direct, indirect and induced jobs.
In Oregon and Washington, an estimated 916 employees (747 in Oregon and 169 in Washington) who work at businesses would be displaced by the LPA. Displaced businesses will receive relocation assistance from the project; it cannot be assumed that all displacements would result in job losses. In Vancouver, the number of displaced businesses will be lower than in Oregon because much of the project can be accommodated within existing right-of-way.
How have public comments been used?
Public comments on the project have been used to help shape the project development process. Comments received are regularly presented to project partners to inform local decision makers about public opinion and ensure that community, natural and cultural resources and effects are fully identified and evaluated.
Community input has shaped project development and design. More than 12,000 public comments have been received so far on a range of topics. Public comments have significantly contributed project designs, including the following topics:
Comments can be submitted at any CRC-sponsored event or at any time in person, via e-mail, mail, telephone or fax. Click here for an online comment form.
How can I get involved?
• Submit comments on the project
• Contact the project office to meet or talk one-on-one with a staff member
• Invite CRC staff to an event or meeting to discuss the project
Ongoing public involvement is necessary for successful project development. As various project elements and design are refined, the project intends to keep the public well informed and will use input and comments received to ensure the project addresses transportation problems and meets community needs. Project staff welcomes your interest.
Will the current I-5 Bridge remain open during construction of the new bridge?
It is anticipated that three southbound and three northbound lanes of I-5 would be maintained during all weekdays, except when the final changeover occurs between the old bridges and the new bridges. During construction, I-5 traffic would be shifted onto temporary alignments, lanes and shoulders would be narrowed to accommodate equipment and workers, merge and exit distances would be shortened, posted speed limits reduced, and some traffic movements would be closed or detoured. When temporary lane closures are needed to accommodate construction and ensure safety, they would typically occur at night and on weekends.
Will homes and businesses be affected by construction?
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identifies the potential impacts to homes and businesses in the project area as well as effects to community, natural and cultural resources. The project is working to stay within the existing right of way, but some temporary and permanent land acquisitions and easements will be unavoidable. Approximately 59 residential displacements and 69 commercial displacements are expected. CRC will work with the cities and residents to provide notice of unavoidable inconveniences and to work within city construction guidelines.
How will downtown Vancouver be affected during construction?
Access to and from I-5 and downtown will be maintained throughout construction. Maintaining access to businesses for customers, delivery and service vehicles will be a key component of the construction plan. Project staff will coordinate directly with businesses to identify access needs before construction begins.
Temporary signage will be provided to identify the location of access points to businesses during detours or closures. CRC will also identify, provide and/or advertise temporary parking locations to replace parking that is temporarily displaced by construction. Notice of detours, temporary lane and parking closures and others disruptions will be provided in advance to allow businesses and residents time to establish new traffic and pedestrian patterns.
CRC will support the City of Vancouver in implementing programs to help businesses during construction, such as:
Business planning assistance
Marketing and retail consulting
Promotions to generate patronage in construction areas
During construction, businesses and property owners will be provided with a construction hotline to resolve issues quickly.
CRC, C-TRAN and City of Vancouver outreach staff will support business and property owners along the project corridor during construction planning and throughout construction. These representatives connect businesses with appropriate resources and will help problem solve issues related to construction impacts.
Where will construction staging areas be?
Staging of equipment and materials would occur in many areas along the project corridor throughout construction, generally within existing or newly purchased right-of-way or on nearby vacant parcels. Major staging areas identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) include Port of Vancouver, Red Lion at the Quay hotel site in Vancouver and Thunderbird Hotel site on Hayden Island. However, the construction contractor may, with appropriate approvals and permits, use other suitable sites that provide for heavy machinery and material storage, have waterfront access for barges and have roadway or rail access for transportation of materials by truck or train.