I-5 toll bridge project makes federal priority list

| 8/6/2008

President Bush signed an executive order this week to expedite the construction of a new toll bridge on a major trucking route in the Pacific Northwest.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced that the executive order signed Tuesday, Aug. 5, authorizes state officials to speed up the environmental review process for the Columbia River Crossing, a five-mile reconstruction of Interstate 5 that includes a new bridge over the Columbia River linking Portland, OR, with Vancouver, WA.

Project officials anticipate tolling as part of the financial plan, a spokeswoman said.

“We expect tolls to be a significant portion of financing,” Communications Manager Danielle Cogan told Land Line. “They’re highly likely, but will they be variable, or based on time of day? That will be part of the financial plan.”

The current bridge spans, one built in 1917 and its twin built in 1958, were tolled until those projects were paid off, Cogan said. They will be taken down once the new bridge is completed.

The Federal Highway Administration has provided $15 million in funding for the project, which is slated to cost $4.2 billion, including light rail in the corridor.

Officials say expediting the construction will reduce crashes and gridlock in the corridor. Click here to view the Columbia River Crossing project Web site.

The executive order places the Columbia River Crossing in the federal government’s Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews program.

The DOT currently lists nine projects in the program, including a proposed Interstate 69 in Texas, a segment of Interstate 66 in Kentucky, and 26 miles of high-occupancy vehicle lanes on I-5 near San Diego.

Peters stated in a press release that only 20 projects have received the distinction since the program was created five years ago.

Click here for the U.S. DOT list of priority projects under the environmental review program.

– By David Tanner, staff writer