CRC Sticks to 116-Foot Bridge Height, Asks Feds for Approval

Proposed Columbia River Crossing

The Columbia River Crossing bridge will be 116 feet high. And despite signs that may not be OK with local Coast Guard officials, the White House may be ready to overrule them.

The embattled project submitted a bridge permit, at the urging of federal authorities, to the Coast Guard—which is tasked with making sure bridges won't impede river traffic—for its approval on Jan. 30.

The $3.5 billion megaproject—set to replace Interstate 5's bridges over the Columbia River, add light rail to Vancouver and build out interchanges—was originally set to be 95 feet high, a figure the Coast Guard roundly rejected. Planners then bumped the project to 116 feet, but internal documents obtained by WW showed Coast Guard leaders thought that height was also too low.

But the local Seattle office may bow to pressure from Washington D.C.: On Jan. 11, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who oversees the Coast Guard, sent letters to Gov. John Kitzhaber and to former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The letter assures the governors that Homeland Security and the Coast Guard will do "everything possible to ensure a timely review and response" to the permit.

Moving the bridge height from 95 to 116 feet adds $30 million to the project's cost, CRC Co-Director Nancy Boyd told WW. There will also be the additional price for the CRC to pay off four companies, including Oregon Iron Works, Thompson Metal Fab and Greenberry Industrial, who say they have commercial projects that will no longer fit under the I-5 bridges, which currently have a lift span.

Boyd says the CRC looked at adding a lift span to the new bridges, but planners found those costs to be about $250 million. She says she expects mitigation to cost less than that.

WWeek 2015

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