Metro wants supplemental I-5 bridge to be studied further

Council asks Columbia River Task Force to do environmental report

Building a second Interstate 5 bridge connecting Portland to Vancouver should be formally studied as a way to relieve congestion at the major interstate connection, according to the Metro Council.

The elected regional council voted Wednesday to recommend that a supplemental bridge be formally studied by the Columbia River Crossing task force, which is considering solutions to the congestion problems on and around the existing I-5 bridge.

The 39-member bi-state task force is scheduled to recommend proposals for full Draft Environmental Impact Studies on Feb. 27. The task force staff has recommended building a large replacement bridge that would also carry a new light rail line or express bus lanes. The cost of such a bridge and related highway interchange work is estimated at between $2 billion and $6 billion.

Saying the public deserves to know whether a lower-cost option would significantly reduce congestion, the council approved a resolution calling for the task force to also study 'a supplemental bridge built to current seismic standards to carry cars, trucks, high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians.' The resolution also called for a study of land-use alternatives to reduce the number of commuters in the five-mile stretch of I-5 that includes the bridge.

The Metro vote followed hours of public testimony. Those opposing the large replacement bridge said it was too expensive and would only encourage more people to commute between the two states. Even those on record as supporting a replacement bridge - including the Portland Business Alliance - favored including the supplemental bridge in future studies.

The resolution did not specify a design for the supplemental bridge or estimate its cost.

The Columbia River Crossing task force will meet from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Portland offices of the Oregon Department of Transportation, 123 N.W. Flanders St.

Even at $2 billion, the replacement bridge would be the most expensive transportation project in the region's history and could require tolls on both I-5 and I-205 to pay for it. The task force will not make a final decision on what project to recommend for another two years.