Third Columbia River bridge proposal unveiled

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If funded and approved, construction of a third Columbia River bridge could be completed in east Clark County within five years to reduce traffic on the two existing bridges, the CEO of a Florida-based bridge design company told community leaders July 25.

Linda Figg presented Figg Engineering Group’s concept for the long-discussed third bridge, saying the project would cost less than $860 million. The meeting drew a full house of interested government officials and citizens at the Public Service Building in Vancouver.

Figg paid her way to attend the meeting and her firm spent the last seven months designing the bridge plan, which was not solicited or paid for by any government body. She envisions the bridge extending from NE 192nd Avenue and SR-14 in Washington to connect with Oregon at NE Airport Way.

The two-mile-long bridge would be four miles east of the I-205 bridge. Like the I-205 span, it would be 144 feet above the river. There would be two 12-foot lanes in each direction with covered pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians below the span.

Clark County Commissioner David Madore vows that the bridge will be toll-free just like the other two Columbia River bridges. He points to a 2008 Transportation Corridors Visioning Study that pinpointed east Clark County as a site for a future travel corridor. In addition, Madore notes that county voters supported the concept of an east county bridge in an advisory vote last year.

Kevin Peterson, a transportation architect and urban planner, told those at last week’s meeting that the I-5 bridge is “functionally deficient.” He added that a metro area the size of Portland-Vancouver would normally have more than twice the bridge lanes as currently exist.

“An east county bridge is doable and it increases (vehicle) capacity,” Peterson said.

Figg Engineering has designed bridges in 42 states and six countries. The company was hired to design a Mississippi River bridge after the original span collapsed in Minneapolis years ago, killing 13 people.

The company’s CEO envisions a bridge that fits unobtrusively into the environment.

“The idea is to create a bridge that is minimalist,” Figg said. “A bridge is both structure and symbol, and should be in harmony with nature.”

Area citizens should have a say in such design details as lighting, railings, the bridge’s theme and other aesthetic matters, she said.

“We propose bringing several options to the community and letting citizens decide,” Figg said.

Financing details weren’t discussed last week, but state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, noted that Washington has been receiving declining gas tax revenues in recent years.

“We have to get creative about how we fund these projects,” she said. “We’re in a pickle as far as that goes.”

Clark County commissioners were scheduled to discuss Figg’s proposal during their Tue., July 29, meeting. They also were to consider putting another east county bridge advisory vote on the November general election ballot.

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