Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Replacement Project Funding Update
Hood River, OR – Federal grant applications for the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Replacement project were not awarded in 2022. But the project team says these first attempts to secure federal funding won’t be the last and that this will not affect the project timeline to replace the outdated and deficient bridge.
The project team is continuing funding efforts in the upcoming legislative sessions in Oregon and Washington and will also reapply for federal grants this year. Mayor Marla Keethler of White Salmon explained, “While not ideal news, we remain encouraged by the federal and state support for our project. The focus remains having a new bridge in place by the end of 2029, and we’ll be back at it applying for these same federal funds in 2023.”
On December 27, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation notified the Port that the project was not awarded a Rural Surface Transportation Grant. The Bistate Working Group was notified of USDOT’s decision on January 3, 2023. On January 4, 2023, the Port and Bistate Working Group were notified that the project was not awarded a Bridge Investment Program grant. This was the final grant application of 2022. In the following weeks, the project team worked with federal officials to secure an official post-decision debrief in the spring. This will give the project team direct feedback from officials and put the project in a better position to secure future funds.
The scoring feedback the project team has received indicated that securing state funding and completing the Final Environmental Impact Statement are crucial to receiving federal funds. The Port selected an Owner’s Representative consultant, HNTB, in late 2022 to oversee the project and provide technical expertise, and the new bridge’s governing body, the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Authority, will form in mid-2023. Both actions will strengthen the project’s 2023 federal applications.
Large infrastructure projects like this are usually funded by a combination of federal and state grants and loans. Federal grants can only pay for up to 80% of a project and are highly competitive because there are more projects around the country than available funding. The project team planned for the process to take several rounds of funding requests with USDOT. State funding is complex because the bridge spans two states. Loansare government-backed, low-interest, and usually taken out against project-related revenue streams, such as tolls.
In 2023, the project team will reapply for three federal Multimodal Project Discretionary Grants – INFRA (known statutorily as the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight & Highway Projects), the Mega Program (known statutorily as the National Infrastructure Project Assistance program) and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program – and apply for grants from the Bridge Investment Program, Safe Streets and Roads For All. They are also pursuing a Raise Planning grant that focus on bike, pedestrian and transit connections to the new bridge.
In the fall of 2021, design and construction costs for the new bridge were estimated at $500 million. The project team now forecasts the cost at $520 million. The original forecast accounted for 4% inflation per year, however, inflation in 2022 was 8% — and for some materials, even higher. If current inflation rates continue, the cost for the bridge is expected to increase by $20 million per year. This emphasizes the need to advance the project as soon as possible.
Currently, the project has secured $95 million in funding. Out of that $95 million, $80 million came from Washington through a $75 million allocation as part of the Move Ahead Washington funding plus an additional $5 million grant. The remaining $15 million was received through three different opportunities worth $5 million each: an American Rescue Plan grant through Oregon, a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant and a 2017 Oregon grant that has been spent. These funds are being used to complete the planning phase of the project and begin the design and construction phases of the project.
Find more information at: portofhoodriver.com/bridge/bridge-replacement-project/