Many want changes to Columbia span

The Associated PressJune 6, 2013 

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Coast Guard will consider the effect on navigation as it decides whether to grant a permit for a lower Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver.

The $3.4 billion project needs the crucial permit to go forward. The Coast Guard plans to make its decision by the end of September after considering comments from a public meeting held Tuesday in Portland and another Wednesday in Vancouver.

Most people who spoke Tuesday opposed the bridge and were especially critical of its height — 116 feet compared with the current bridge, which has a lift span that provides clearance of 178 feet, The Columbian reported.

That would be high enough for almost all current river users, but some upriver manufacturers ship bigger loads.

Washington and Oregon have signed mitigation agreements with Oregon Iron Works and Greenberry Industrial. Details have not been announced.

Thompson Metal Fab Inc., which makes oil drilling modules for Alaska, is still in talks with both states. Company president John Rudi said at the hearing that the sides are far apart.

Bridge planners overlooked the needs of shippers and failed to properly evaluate the economic impact, said Jill Gelineau, a lawyer representing Thompson.

Thompson officials have said they may have to move their factory downstream of the bridge, The Oregonian reported.

The Columbia River Crossing filed for its Coast Guard permit in January and submitted additional documents in April.

The Coast Guard will accept public comment through June 20. Planners need Coast Guard approval by mid-October to apply for federal funding crucial to the project.

The state of Oregon has committed $450 million to the new bridge project, contingent on the Washington Legislature approving the same amount. Some Washington state lawmakers object to the expense and the added cost for the bridge to carry a light-rail link from Portland.

The majority of more than 140 comments written online by Tuesday urged the agency to reject the Columbia River Crossing as planned.

Supporters, however, said the new bridge is needed to replace parallel spans that were built in 1917 and 1958 and carry 128,000 vehicles a day.

“There is a huge ripple across the pond that goes well outside of Clark and Multnomah counties,” said Tony Vasquez, one of several union members who turned out in favor of the project.

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