The Port of Hood River, a public agency, has owned and operated the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge since 1950. The 4,418’ steel truss bridge was originally constructed in 1924. It provides a critical, bi-state transportation link in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Bridge is over 30 years past its design life. Its sufficiency rating, a numeric representation of reliability and functionality, is 48.8, a strong indicator of functional obsolescence. It creates a hazardous traffic bottleneck during closures of I-84 in Oregon or SR-14 Washington, a frequent occurrence. It has 9’4” travel lanes, vastly undersized for today’s vehicles, and no pedestrian or bicycle facilities. The 80,000 lbs. weight limit restricts vehicle freight movement; and the narrow, poorly aligned navigation channel presents the greatest navigational hazard on the entire Columbia/Snake River federal inland waterway system.
Washington agencies and and federal partners have completed significant work on replacing the bridge:
- Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) completed in 2003
- Replacement Feasibility Study completed in 2004
- Type, Size and Location Study completed in 2011
- Formation of a Bi-State Committee Memo of Understanding in 2011
OREGON LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT
The passage of Oregon HB 2750 and HB 2017 during the 2017 Oregon legislative session provided funding to complete the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process and allow the Port to consider Public Private Partnerships (P3s) upon adoption of administrative rules.
Since January, the Port has accomplished several tasks to push the project forward, including:
- Hired a Bridge Replacement Project Director to manage contracts, processes and outreach related to the financing and environmental clearances required to proceed with construction.
- Executed an Inter-Governmental Agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation for the $5 million application for environmental permits and financial analyses.
- Contracted with OTAK, a NEPA Technical Advisor, to assist in the environmental clearances.
- Contracted with SW Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) to facilitate the NEPA EIS Consultant Selection Process.
- Hosted a Public Private Partnership (P3) Work Session to inform the Commission and public officials about P3s and other procurement methods.
- Drafted administrative rules governing P3 proposals as required by the Oregon Legislature (public comment is currently being sought on the draft rules with a public hearing planned for March 20).
- Contracted with a Project Delivery/P3 Advisor to assist the Port Commission in identifying and evaluating potential procurement methods.
- Developed a new webpage and blog for updating the public and archiving pertinent policy documents (https://portofhoodriver.com/bridge/bridge-replacement-project/bridge-replacement-blog/)
The Port will be completing the bid documents for the EIS consultant selection process in the next few weeks. A Bi-State Evaluation Committee will review, interview, and rank proposals for final Port Commission approval. The consultant should be on board by July and will begin an extensive, multiyear effort to finalize NEPA clearances requiring robust public input.
The Port is organizing a bi-state Bridge Replacement Advisory Group (BRAG) composed of representatives on both sides of the river that will participate in several important ways:
- Review and provide feedback during the NEPA Environmental Impact Study process
- Provide input on the various analytical steps that will be carried out to inform potential delivery models
- Act as a conduit for public feedback between your community and the Port
- Collaborate on advocacy efforts in Olympia, Salem and Washington D.C.
The Port will be seeking elected and key managers to represent local government agencies by serving on the BRAG. The first meeting is expected to occur in April.
The Port believes it is crucial that Washington boards and constituents are informed and have opportunities to be involved in this unfolding process. The Port is committed to working in a coordinated effort with local agencies on both sides of the river on the project. The Port will continue to reach out to Washington communities in other ways to present updates and identify opportunities for community involvement.