Gluesenkamp Perez, Cantwell, Murray Announce $600M Grant for I-5 Bridge Replacement Project

Dec 15, 2023
Press
Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez visits the I-5 Bridge with White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in September.

Today, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Sens. Maria Cantwell (WA) and Patty Murray (WA) announced that the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) Program – the organization tasked with replacing the I-5 Bridge connecting Southwest Washington and Portland – will receive $600 million in federal funds from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Infrastructure Project Assistance program, or Mega program

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez has spoken directly with Secretary Buttigieg and hosted White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in September to underscore the urgent need for this funding to help replace the I-5 Bridge. Additionally, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez, Sen. Cantwell, and Sen. Murray co-led a bipartisan Washington delegation letter in August in support of the states’ Mega grant application.

The I-5 Bridge project received the highest amount of funding out of 11 awards nationwide. This year, the DOT sought applications for $1.8 billion in Mega program funding from Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024 advance appropriations. Today’s grant marks the second federal grant awarded to the current bridge replacement project; the first, a $1 million seismic study grant, was awarded in October 2022.

Today’s award will fund 8-12% of the estimated $5-7.5 billion total bridge replacement project cost. The bridge replacement project remains eligible for other sources of federal funding, including the DOT Bridge Investment Program and the Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant Program.

“From Day One, it’s been my mission to bring our federal tax dollars back to Southwest Washington to replace the deteriorating, functionally obsolete I-5 Bridge. It’s the only way we get this huge project done. I pushed for critical Mega program funding every time I spoke with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and I brought White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu to tour the bridge and understand the project,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “I’m excited these efforts have paid off. This Mega program award will be a major step forward toward strengthening the safety and efficiency of this vital interstate artery. I’ll continue working to bring every possible federal dollar home for this project so our local drivers, especially our commuters, and economy can feel the benefits.”

The I-5 Bridge is a crucial linchpin in both the regional and national economy and plays a vital role in transporting freight along the I-5 corridor. IBR reports that $132 million worth of freight crossed the I-5 Bridge daily in 2020. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, an estimated total of $97 billion in goods traveled by truck either from Washington to Oregon or California, or from Oregon or California to Washington in 2022.

The route is also vital to international exporters; in 2021, nearly $2 billion worth of goods from California and $750 million worth of goods from Oregon were trucked to Canada via the I-5 corridor. According to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, an average of 131,747 vehicles crossed the bridge each weekday in 2021, including many of the 65,000 Clark County residents who work in Oregon.

Despite the bridge’s importance, it’s rated the worst truck bottleneck in Washington and Oregon and the fifth-worst on the West Coast, with seven to 10 hours of congestion during the morning and evening commute periods.

In addition, there are significant issues with the aging existing bridge. One span is more than a century old and the other is more than 65 years old. Neither span has had a seismic retrofit, which is a significant concern in a region susceptible to earthquake activity: the entire structure is at risk of collapse in the event of a major earthquake. Moreover, simply maintaining the existing structure is expensive.

Annual maintenance costs are about $1.2 million per year and larger maintenance projects needed to simply maintain the bridge are expected to cost $280 million by 2040 – not including the cost of a seismic retrofit, which would be substantial. Today, these maintenance costs are split equally between the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez tours the I-5 Bridge with WSDOT in February.

“Today marks a mega win for the State of Washington: Finally, the 100-year-old I-5 Bridge is getting a federal down payment. I was proud to author the Mega Grant Program to help us tackle transportation projects that drive the economies of entire regions, but are too large and complex for one community or state to fund alone,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This is the second year of the program, and it’s no coincidence that past recipients – the New York-New Jersey Gateway tunnel, the Ohio-Kentucky Brent Spence bridge, and now the Oregon-Washington I-5 bridge – are also economy-driving corridors. Cross-state corridors are winning the day under my Mega grant program because these investments actually help us improve the flow of commerce to grow our regional and national economies. Older bridges were never designed to carry this volume of people and freight, and the consequence is that they become a pinch point for the economy and a headache for daily commuters, stymying economic growth.”

As chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Cantwell authored the Mega program in order to dedicate federal funds for projects that are critical for the U.S. economy, but too large or complex for existing funding programs. The program was enacted in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and appropriated $5 billion to award over five years.

“For decades, I have made clear to the people of Southwest Washington that I will stick by their side and fight for a new I-5 Bridge crossing – and today I am proud to have delivered this funding for the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project to get us that much closer to the finish line,” said Sen. Murray. “I worked to fund the Mega program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and I am nothing short of ecstatic that Washington state can count on a truly historic influx of federal dollars to move full steam ahead toward the kind of world-class infrastructure Southwest Washington needs to strengthen the regional economy and provide safe and reliable transportation for everyone. There has been no shortage of challenges and criticism from detractors over the decades, but together we are finally realizing our shared vision for Southwest Washington. This is a top priority for me and has been the subject of many conversations with Secretary Buttigieg and so many others over the past three decades – and as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am determined to secure the additional federal funding needed to finish the job on the I-5 Bridge Replacement.” 

Funding for the Mega program comes from advanced appropriations provisions Sen. Murray helped write into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as a senior appropriator and Assistant Majority Leader providing $5 billion over five years for the Mega program. Sen. Murray’s longtime leadership on the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project includes passing into law provisions updating the Federal Transit Administration’s evaluation process for multimodal projects like the I-5 Bridge Replacement to make them more competitive for federal funding. WSDOT is relying on the authorities Murray secured for the transit components of this project today.

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