From the Winter 2022 Newsletter
The Port of Hood River’s focus on bridge replacement is shifting increasingly to Project Development as it completes its last NEPA activities for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD). Completing the Final EIS positions the project for Phase Two tasks such as funding, design and pre-construction activities.
The 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that government actions (primarily capital projects) thoroughly evaluate projects or activities expected to have significant environmental impacts and/or require federal funding.
Phase One’s monumental task of fulfilling NEPA requirements took four and a half years. This included technical reports on air quality, energy and greenhouse gases, fish and wildlife elements, geology and soils, hazardous material, land use, noise, traffic, water quality, vegetation and wetlands, historic, cultural, archaeological and recreational resources, as well as social and economic considerations. After publishing the Supplemental Draft EIS in November of 2020, the Port hosted a six-week public comment period through multiple communications channels. A key step to developing the Final EIS was Port response to over 150 public comments.
The Final EIS / ROD conclusions are anticipated pending these final elements:
Tribal Compensation Agreements (CAs) with four treaty tribes that will be impacted by construction of the proposed bridge. Agreements are in development for impacts due to a loss of fishing access at treaty negotiated sites.
Finalization for Endangered Species Act consultation that will come from the National Marine Fisheries Biological Opinion. This opinion is a response to the project’s plan for addressing impacts to Endangered Species. Fully funded projects have been given priority status due to staffing limitations.
Final mitigation agreements with consulting parties to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Section 106) in order to resolve the project’s adverse effects on historic preservation of properties. This relates to removing the existing bridge, a historic resource. Historic preservation could include activities like developing museum exhibits to memorialize the structure.
The Port secured the services of WSP USA to guide the bridge replacement project through the complexities of the NEPA process, development of the Supplemental Draft EIS, Final EIS and ROD. WSP has worked closely with the Port’s Bridge Replacement Project Director, Kevin Greenwood.
As the NEPA process concludes and once the Final EIS and ROD are received, bridge replacement work will focus on funding for design, permits, studies and construction. A ROD would allow the project to proceed with federal funding and permit applications.
Project Development (Phase Two) began six months ago and is estimated to cost $20-30 million. Completion of Phase Two will allow the project to move to construction.
Activities to be funded in Phase Two include:
Engineering work to 30% design, providing more reliable cost estimates and construction schedules.
Level 2 traffic and toll revenue analysis, allowing more reliable estimates of the bonding capacity of the net toll revenues.
Continued environmental mitigation and permitting.
Bi-state bridge authority establishment and implementation.
Development of preliminary financial plans.
Assessment of project delivery options.
Bi-State Bridge Authority Legislation has been introduced in both state legislatures this year (SSB 5558 in Washington and HB 4089 in Oregon). The proposed new bridge authority would be composed of six local governments, currently participants in the Bi-State Working Group (BSWG). They are: Klickitat County and the Washington cities of Bingen and White Salmon, the City of Hood River, Hood River County, and the Port of Hood River. Mayors and County Commissioners from both Hood River and Klickitat County have been active participants of the BSWG.
Significant funding has been secured for
Phase One and Phase Two activities:
The 2017 Oregon Legislature approved $5 million in Phase One project funding. Phase One includes environmental studies required to satisfy NEPA requirements and tasks for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approval of the Supplemental Draft EIS and work toward the Final EIS.
The Port of Hood River received a $5 million BUILD Grant award from the Federal Department of Transportation in 2020 with co-applicant Klickitat County. It funds a portion of Phase Two work such as engineering, governance structure and traffic studies necessary in the pre-construction phase.
The Port committed $1.25 million reserved from the 2018 toll increase as matching funds for the BUILD grant.
The Washington state legislature appropriated $5 million in 2021 for project management, governance development, engineering and planning efforts. These appropriations will be dispersed from WSDOT directly to the Port of Hood River as directed by Klickitat County. The grant agreement is currently under legal review.
The Port of Hood River was notified last summer of a pending allocation of $5 million via ODOT from the American Rescue Plan Act Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, authorized by HB5006. These funds will be used primarily for engineering work.
A $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill was signed into law by President Biden in November, and Oregon is expected to receive at least $4.5 billion over the next five years. Allocation will be determined by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC). The Port and its bridge replacement project advocacy partners have been working hard to secure more needed funding for the project. A Federal request through the INFRA reauthorization was unsuccessful last summer.
Looking ahead, a Replacement Bridge Management Contract Request for Proposals will be released by the Port in February or early March. The Replacement Bridge Management Contractor (RBMC) will be the lead consultant in planning and managing the technical aspects of the bridge replacement effort. The RBMC will likely be with the project through the end of construction and will represent the owner’s interests in facilitating selection of an engineering firm, reviewing design submittals, formulating public input strategies related to aesthetic treatments on the replacement bridge and other numerous responsibilities necessary to complete construction.
The Port of Hood River and its partners in the Bridge Replacement Bi-State Working Group offer special thanks to our legislators advocating for the project while representing Hood River and Klickitat counties. Advocacy continues at the federal level as well for infrastructure funding.