On Saturday, April 22, Senate Bill 5200 cleared both chambers of the Washington state legislature. This capital budget bill includes the release of $75 million in Move Ahead Washington transportation funding specifically to replace the aging Hood River-White Salmon Bridge, which carries about 4.5 million vehicle trips per year. It also calls for an additional $50M in future funding, bringing the Washington total to $125M on the project. The Legislature’s action comes 100 years — nearly to the day — after the original bridge association announced plans for the current bridge on April 12, 1923.
After the vote, Senator Curtis King commented, “I am very pleased that we were able to return the $75 million bridge funding back into the next three biennia, including $15 million in 2023-2025. Our hope is that the Oregon Legislature will be able to provide additional funding for this project. We will continue to do all we can to ensure the project moves forward in a timely manner.”
When Governor Jay Inslee signs the bill into law, the replacement project will draw significantly closer to full funding. Mike Fox, Port Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Bi State Working Group, said, “The efforts made by Washington State in releasing $75 million for the new Hood River-White Salmon bridge is another major milestone in our journey towards replacement of our bridge. I know I speak for the entire Bi State Working Group in acknowledging how much we appreciate Sen. King’s commitment and support for this project, and we trust that Oregon will step up to the plate with funding as well. Along with recent actions taken by the Port to attract federal grants as well as needed federal TIFIA loans, I am confident that our funding challenges have a clear way forward.”
Committed funding for the project’s projected total cost of $520 million is now about 35% percent complete. Passage of Oregon’s House Bill 3622 would commit a further $125 million to the project. Funding from both states, combined with the local commitment through toll revenue-backed financing, will position the project to receive up to $200 million in federal grants, fully funding the project.
The commitment of state and federal funding benefits residents on both sides of the bridge and others who frequently pay the toll to cross. This funding reduces the impact on toll payers by reducing the amount that would need to be financed through a low-interest, government-backed loan repaid by bridge tolls.
The current bridge opened on
Dec. 9, 1924, with an automobile toll of 75 cents — about $13 today, adjusted for inflation. Today the passenger-car toll is $2, with a $1 discount for BreezeBy electronic toll pass customers.
The project’s committed funding is now complete enough for the project team to pursue a contract for design and to fund construction of “early works” projects — various kinds of surveying and other data-gathering that precede design and construction. These steps will keep the project on its projected timeline, which has the replacement bridge completed and operating in 2029.
The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge connects agricultural producers to ocean ports, and gives local residents daily access to jobs, childcare, school and medical services. Replacement is crucial because experts have estimated the current bridge to have reached the end of its service life, with little chance of surviving an earthquake. The Federal Highway Administration recently rated it at 6 out of 100 for sufficiency. Its narrow lanes, weight restrictions, lack of shoulders, difficult barge navigation, and lack of biking and walking access limit its safety and capacity.
Find more information at hoodriverbridge.org.