The program tasked with replacing the century-old Interstate 5 bridge that connects Portland, Oregon, with southwest Washington, and serves as a vital transportation and commerce link, is set to receive $600 million in federal funds, state congressmembers said Friday.
Washington’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, announced the funding.
The bridge crosses the Columbia River and is a key component of I-5, which spans the entirety of the West Coast. Traffic congestion is frequent with more than 130,000 vehicles driving across it every day, according to regional transportation agencies.
“There are projects that are so big and so costly that oftentimes they don’t get funded, but they are linchpins to an economy that literally have regional and national significance to them. And the I-5 bridge is a perfect example of that,” Cantwell told The Associated Press. Projects like that need federal financial support, she said.
The aging bridge is at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake. Funding will go toward building a replacement that is seismically resilient.
“There’s no way a hundred-year-old bridge is going to continue to grow with the capacity and the demand that we have,” Cantwell told the AP. “This is going to be a key investment to help change that.”
The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program will receive the money as part of a federal Department of Transportation grant initiative.
Murray, Washington’s other U.S. senator, has advocated for the project for decades and considers it a top priority.
“I am nothing short of ecstatic that Washington state can count on a truly historic influx of federal dollars,” she said in a joint news release with Cantwell and Gluesenkamp Perez.
Oregon officials also welcomed the funding. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley described it as a “game changer” that will “boost seismic resiliency in the region and ensure safer, faster, and more reliable transportation for generations to come.”
The money will come from the federal National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, which was created by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law. Also known as the Mega program, it supports projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs.
The $600 million will cover between 8 to 12% of the total estimated bridge replacement costs, which could reach $7.5 billion, Washington’s congressmembers said.