Plans to build a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River have been in the making for years at this point. I’m not going to discuss all of the pros and cons of this project here because there would be far too many to count. Instead I would like to take a look at the process of determining the environmental impact of this project. Since this construction involves the Department of Transportation, the project must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). What this entails, in part, is an assessment of the environmental impact of the construction and the eventual production of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project released their draft EIS on May 2, 2008 and a document correcting certain errors in this draft was released on May 23, 2008. This draft EIS was released to help inform the public about what the research says about the environmental impact of this bridge is going to be and what the different options for building are. The final EIS is expected to be published this year.
When looking at the environmental impact of the project, it must always be compared to what the impact of not building or a “no build” would be. In this case a no build would mean that the bridge would not be replaced. In addition to the no build option there are four different alternatives for building this bridge:
The first option is replacing the bridge entirely and the new bridge would include a lane for buses and a lane for pedestrian and bike traffic. The pedestrian and bike traffic lane would potentially be a separate structure.
The second option would be to replace the existing bridge structure and add a lane for light rail as well as a lane for pedestrian and bike traffic.
The third option would be to build a new bridge for southbound traffic but keep the existing bridge for northbound vehicles. The pedestrian and bike lane would be on the currently existing bridge.
The fourth option, similar to the third, would include a new bridge for southbound traffic, the existing bridge for northbound, and a lane for light rail on the new bridge. The pedestrian and bike lane would be on the existing bridge.
You can find out more or view the draft EIS for free by contacting the CRC office. Their email is email@example.com and their toll free phone number is 866-396-2726. You can also visit their website at www.columbiarivercrossing.org.