On Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, the Port of Hood River and the Bi-State Working Group hosted legislators from Oregon and Washington and described the urgent need to replace the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge and requested support for additional state funding for the new bridge. Over 30 legislators and staff attended and discussed why the Gorge communities strongly support replacing the bridge on an accelerated timeline.
Kevin Greenwood, Executive Director of the Port of Hood River, welcomed attendees to the event. Michael Shannon, Project Director, presented the deficiencies of the existing bridge and why it needs replacing. He shared that the bridge has reached the end of its serviceable life and cannot sufficiently accommodate the community’s needs today or in the future.
Local business, emergency and medical service providers spoke about how critical the bridge is to daily life in the region and to businesses. Bridge closures result in limited access to emergency services, shipping delays, and severe congestion and delays throughout the Gorge.
Hood River Sheriff Matt English shared how the deficiencies of the bridge severely limit emergency response services, all at a time when regional disasters are increasing. Hood River Fire Chief Leonard Damian echoed these concerns. During a recent fire in Washington, essential equipment could not get across the bridge to aid emergency responders. “When the bridge is shut down, it hurts the entire community,” he said.
Lynn Fox, CEO of Insitu, based in Cook, Washington, shared how the recent three-day bridge closure impacted the business, including challenges for employees traveling to work. “The bridge is what connects people to work and to customers, and why people live here,” she said.
Built in 1924, the existing bridge has narrow lanes and no shoulders, which makes it hazardous for freight trucks to cross. There is no bike or pedestrian access, and the bridge is a navigational challenge for many marine freight vessels.
“The bridge is more than a bridge. It’s a lifeline that benefits our states, region and nation,” said Marla Keethler, Mayor of White Salmon, Washington. She emphasized that a working, reliable bridge is essential for western Klickitat County communities such as White Salmon and Bingen, and critical to the rural freight network for agriculture, forestry, and high-tech industries.
Attendees walked under the bridge on the Oregon-side shoreline path to view up close the current condition of the structure, including peeling paint, the steel grating for the road’s surface, and damage from rust. “We need to get this bridge built, and we need to get it built now,” said Washington State Senator Curtis King, ranking member of the Washington Transportation Committee.
The project has $97 million in funding and is seeking an additional $420 million for final design, construction of the new bridge, and demolition of the existing structure. A Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) are expected in early 2023. The project is moving forward with preliminary design work and geotechnical testing to understand the site conditions underground. Find more information at: portofhoodriver.com/bridge/bridge-replacement-project/