Pamplin Media Group – Multiple Federal Grants Could Pay for New Burnside Bridge


Officials estimate it will cost $895 million to build an earthquake-ready Burnside Bridge.

With one grant secured, Multnomah County is turning to several other federal grants to help cover the cost of the earthquake-ready Burnside Bridge replacement project.

Currently, the project is estimated at $895 million. The county plans to contribute about $300 million through its vehicle registration fees.

The county has applied for four federal grant programs since this spring, hoping to account for nearly $600 million in remaining costs. Some of them were new programs created by the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last year.

Officials announced Aug. 11 that the county received $5 million for the design phase of the project through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program.

The awarding of the grant “indicates that the Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge project is on track and aligns with many of the goals identified in the Biden infrastructure package, which includes resilience, equity and climate change” , said Megan Neill, project manager for the county. in a report.

Additionally, the county has applied for two federal transportation grant programs that, if awarded, would fully fund construction of the new bridge, officials say.

One includes $535 million from the Discretionary Grants Program for Multimodal Projects and another would provide $447 million from the Bridge Investment Program. Those grants will be awarded this winter and next spring, respectively, said county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.

The county also applied for a risk mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that would add $660,000 to the design phase of the project.

The county is able to apply for three other federal grants, Sullivan-Springhetti said, including two designed to help communities prepare for natural disasters. The county is also actively seeking other state and federal funding sources, officials said.

Leaders at all levels of government have been sounding the alarm for years, saying creating a bridge that could withstand a major earthquake and be a lifeline across the Willamette River is a top regional priority. .

According to geologists, there is a 1 in 3 chance that an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or greater will occur in the region within the next 50 years. The earthquake would likely cause extensive damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure. The last major earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone, a fault in the earth’s crust stretching from British Columbia to northern California, occurred 300 years ago.

Questions about how to finance the already years-long project have become more complicated after its estimated cost rose to $1 billion due to inflation and pandemic-related price increases for building materials. and the workforce. Additionally, Metro’s regional transit bond, which would have contributed $150 million to the project, failed in 2020.

In March, the county council approved three alternative design measures, which reduce the estimated cost of the project by more than $200 million.

A public comment period on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement required by the federal government, which incorporated the cost-cutting measures, ended in June.

The City of Portland participated in the environmental review phase of the project. Last month, the city council approved a resolution accepting the proposed plans for the project.

The resolution did, however, include conditions regarding the proposed configuration of the bridge lanes and how the bridge would connect to the Eastbank Esplanade.

City officials led by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees Portland’s transportation bureau, are pushing for the bridge to include at least 17 feet of space for bicycles and pedestrians on either side of vehicle lanes to promote the city’s climate goals.

Currently, county plans include 14 to 17 feet of space for bicycles and pedestrians. A decision on the specific amount of space will be made during the design phase of the project, which will begin next spring, Neill said.

Portland officials also want the project to include a connecting ramp between the bridge and the plaza, which the city government developed independently of the county.

Accessibility and transport advocates raised concerns after initial plans for the project called for a staircase and lift to act as connections.

Officials estimate a ramp connection would cost $90 million, based on concept designs.

Neill said the county plans to preserve the existing stairway connection, which is owned by the city, and reconnect it to the new bridge when construction is complete.

“The Federal Highway Administration has advised that Multnomah County is not responsible for upgrading the existing stairway as it is attached to the bridge by a revocable permit the City of Portland has with Multnomah County,” Neill said. “Multnomah County will not design the new bridge in a way that would prevent a ramp from connecting to it in the future.”

The Federal Highway Administration will be asked to approve the final environmental impact statement in late 2022.

Construction is expected to start in 2025.

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