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First images released of possible I-5 bridge replacement designs

About a year and a half into the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, design possibilities are finally taking shape and coming to light.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — People are getting their first look at possible designs for replacing the Interstate Bridge, which connects Vancouver to Portland, in newly released 3D renderings, and it seems there are two main design options so far.

Both options relate to how traffic will move. One design shows two side-by-side spans like the current Interstate Bridge. The other is a double-decker design.

At a Thursday meeting with the project's executive steering group, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle was eager to see the new 3D images before the main presentation even began, saying, “I know they are high-level design options but I think it's important that we can start looking.”

Greg Johnson, administrator for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program, said the images help engineers and decision makers come up with plans, but he also wants more community input. 

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“For the general public, these 3D graphics are tremendously helpful in seeing how this thing looks. So we're going to try to get those things out as soon as they're developed,” said Johnson, who added that community input has already helped shape what they are working on now. 

There is no doubt the Interstate Bridge will eventually need to be replaced. Experts say the old bridge, with its first span built in 1917, would most likely fall apart in the event of a major Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.

A new bridge would be up to current seismic standards and would also make room for a shared use path and mass transit. 

All the bridge design graphics can be viewed at the city of Vancouver's website, where they are set to be used at a city council presentation Monday, Jan. 24. 

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As for whether Johnson has a preference on which bridge design to go with, he said, "both versions have pluses and minuses, and so we're trying to balance all of those things together and see what comes out."

It will not be Johnson’s decision to make alone; there are multiple stakeholders on both sides of the Columbia River.

The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program plans to release its first-choice option sometime in March. Then there will be many steps to go, including funding and approval processes. 

If successful, replacement bridge construction could start in mid-2025. 

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