Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
Mark Hiorta, lead engineer with WSP Global, goes over a diagram of the proposed replacement bridge with a community member. Members of the project team were available to answer questions throughout the evening.
As of Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Community members packed into the Riverview Room of the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn last night to learn more about the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement Project, speak with project coordinators and give input on the process.
“Seeing all of you here tonight is a real good step and a real good way to start this project off,” said Project Director Kevin Greenwood.
Posters and diagrams were placed throughout the room with information on the history of the current bridge and the replacement effort, the steps going forward, and the proposed design for the new bridge.
The proposed new bridge would be built next to the current bridge, off of Button Bridge Road, with an 80-foot clearance and no bridge lift. The proposal contains two travel lanes — one in each direction — and a 12-foot-wide bike/pedestrian lane with a mid-bridge viewpoint.
The goal with the finished bridge is to “really make it a centerpiece of the Gorge without ruining the natural beauty of it as well,” Greenwood said.
Community involvement is a major part of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements for a project of this size, Greenwood said, so last night’s meeting was a forum where the project team could get direct feedback from the community and talk about what aspects of the project matter most to community members.
“(We) can’t do this project effectively or transparently without your involvement,” Greenwood said.
Large notepads were set up around the room for attendees to write down questions and comments they had for project coordinators.
Several attendees were concerned about bike and pedestrian safety on the new bridge, how to best preserve the historical value of the current bridge; and some asked to see exactly where the toll revenue has gone and suggested that the toll revenue should be split evenly between both states, while others suggested that the new bridge shouldn’t have a toll at all.
The most commonly expressed opinion was that the lengthy timeline — 10 years until a new bridge is functional — is unacceptable and that steps need to be taken to speed it up; some asked if there were steps that they could take as civilians to speed up the process.
Attendees were encouraged to contact their representatives and express how important it is to them that the project move quickly because, Commissioner Brian Shortt said, the project is currently stuck in the traditional permitting process.
“The project is really going to move faster with support,” said Angela Findley, project director with WSP Global, the engineering firm contracted to help the port finish the Final Environmental Impact Study. The biggest step moving forward is getting to the record of decision at the end of the Environmental Impact Study process — which opens the doors to significant grant options. That is expected to be completed in early 2020.
The port has put all of the information from the community meeting — including a short survey and comment forms — on the project’s website, portofhoodriver.com/bridge/bridge-replacement-project. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attendees were also encouraged to get involved with One Gorge Advocacy, an informal grassroots group, to organize lobbying efforts. They can be contacted at email@example.com.