Klickitat County and Port of HR receive $5 million grant for bridge replacement

Klickitat County and the Port of Hood River have received a $5 million grant award from the federal BUILD (“Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development”) Transportation Discretionary Grant program to fund Phase 2 of the ongoing effort to replace the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge. 

The $5 million grant will be matched with $1.25 million from the Port of Hood River, for a total project budget of $6.25 million. 

The grant will fund project management, future bridge governance evaluation, traffic/toll revenue estimates, 15 percent engineering design, geotechnical borings, and legal expenses, according to the Port of Hood River, and the grant’s project completion is expected in May 2022. 

The Port of Hood River submitted a joint application with Klickitat County earlier this year and the project received unanimous support from the congressional delegation of both states. 

“Klickitat County appreciates the advocacy of Rep. Herrera-Beutler’s office with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to make this funding a reality,” said Klickitat County Commissioner David Sauter.

“We are so grateful to Rep. Walden, Sens. Wyden and Merkley in Oregon and Rep. Herrera-Beutler and Sens. Murry and Cantwell in Washington for their advocacy of this important project. This bi-state support was key to success. We so very much appreciate the strong, ongoing support of these elected representatives,” said Port Commission President John Everitt.

Said Rep. Walden in an official release, “I appreciate Transportation Secretary Chao’s efforts and decision to award this critical funding for the Port of Hood River Project.  I worked closely with local officials and made the case directly to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about the need for this funding. I’m appreciative of her and the Trump Administration’s support for improving transportation infrastructure in our part of Oregon.” 

Project managers are currently in the process of finishing the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) and other National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, and anticipates submitting the FEIS in January and receiving an official record of decision by late July 2021.

Tentative project timelines estimate that physical construction of the new bridge would be completed sometime in 2025. 

While the Port of Hood River took the lead in the first stage of the project, Klickitat County will coordinate the review process for selecting the engineering firm and lead the technical advisory committee moving forward. 

Efforts to replace the bridge first began in 1999, with the launch of the first formal feasibility study by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, but the project was abandoned in 2005 due to a lack of funding. The Port of Hood River took the lead in reinstigating the replacement effort in 2015 and received a $5 million grant from the State of Oregon as part of the “Keep Oregon Moving” initiative  in 2017 to finish the FEIS and other NEPA requirements. 

“The bridge replacement project is really 20 years old now, and has several stops and starts due to funding,” said Bridge Replacement Project Director Kevin Greenwood. “The Oregon legislature provided $5 million in funding in 2017 for completion of the NEPA process, and now this BUILD grant funding will enable us to continue our work without a pause between those two phases. This is very good news.”

As part of the NEPA process, the Port of Hood River has partnered with numerous government agencies on both side of the river, including The Port of Klickitat, the Cities of Hood River, Bingen and White Salmon, the Columbia River Gorge Commission, Hood River, Klickitat and Skamania Counties, the Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, among others. 

“The bi-state collaboration for this project has been sort of a relay race for many years, with a passing of the baton happening at each major step forward,” said Port Director Michael McElwee. “Now, the Port Commission and bi-state regional partners are working together in tandem, meeting regularly to map a pathway forward to a new bridge. This grant approval is a big win for that approach and a sign of project success.”

For more information about the project, contact Kevin Greenwood at kgreenwood@portofhoodriver.com.

“From helping small businesses and agricultural producers ship their products, to putting critical goods within reach, boosting the Gorge’s recreational economy, and helping people evacuate from wildfires in times of crisis — Oregonians need quality transportation infrastructure they can rely on,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley in a press release.

Sen. Ron Wyden said, “The Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge has long played an essential role in keeping the Columbia Gorge strong for both the regional economy and residents’ quality of life.”