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Columbia River Crossing Back From the Dead With a New Name and Potential Changes

2021 will be a big year for planning on the Interstate Bridge Replacement project, née Columbia River Crossing, that will connect Washington and Oregon across the Columbia River.
December 3, 2020, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Portland, Oregon
JPL Designs

Officials from the states of Washington and Oregon are dusting off ambitions to replace an Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River. A previous version of the plan, known as the Columbia River Crossing, was killed in 2014, but not before both states spent $190 million over a decade of work on the project.  

Planetizen has used the "back from the dead" hook in the headline for this article on more than once occasion regarding this project, first as officials began to re-examine and re-advocate for the project in early 2017. Oregon took a substantive step toward rejuvenating the project in August 2019. The project was on the fast track by September 2019.

The story in 2020 is told by Ryan Packer, who first details the rare collection of opposition forces that killed the project in 2015 and lists the key features of the Columbia River Crossing project of the previous decade, which would have spent $3.4 billion to increase the freeway's capacity from six to ten lanes and add seven "optimized" interchanges on either side of the river.

The project now has a new name, the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) program, but it's cost estimates are still based on the old project, reports Packer, so there are still numerous questions about whether the project will expand the freeway, where, and by how much. Packer's deep reporting offers insight from leading officials about which way the project might be headed in this new iteration.

Packer notes that the question of whether the states will have to pay $140 million back to the federal government is motivating some of the action on the project, positioning 2021 as a key year for observers to monitor the project.

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Published on Monday, November 30, 2020 in The Urbanist
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