The on-again, off-again effort to replace the aging Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington has taken another step toward on-again. The bi-state program office of the Oregon Dept. of Transportation and Washington State Dept. of Transportation has hired Greg Johnson as the program administrator.
Johnson, most recently a senior vice president at WSP and its national director for construction management and services in Michigan, will start July 6 and represent both states to build a new Columbia River Crossing—an effort that dates back more than a decade.
Selected from a national pool of candidates, he has over 20 years of service as a senior transportation executive, including work for the agencies in Maryland and Michigan. “I look forward to working with the stakeholders to find solutions to the unique challenges that need to be addressed to move this critical infrastructure project forward,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am excited to dive in and begin this challenge.”
Last November, Oregon and Washington governors reprioritized the joint effort to replace the bottleneck-inducing pair of trusses. Washington lawmakers had ended a previous effort in 2013. At that time, estimates for a new bridge were initially over $3 billion.
Johnson and his team will need to see what still exists as workable material from the earlier joint project, in which nearly $200 million was spent.
The two states hope to get an environmental review of a new project moving this year and potentially start construction in the summer of 2025. The new agreement lasts for five years but can be voided by either state with a three-month notice.
The two miles of freeway directly tied to the bridge links with Oregon’s largest city, Portland. In normal traffic periods, average speeds across the bridge are down to 9 miles per hour.
A new bridge will be seismically up to date while expanding capacity and leaving room for high-capacity transit, whether that be light rail or rapid bus lines. While still early in the new project plans and therefore too early to start placing price tags on the bridge, the governors have said they expect tolling will become a major part of the equation.