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Sec. of Transportation Talks I-5 Bridge Replacement During Washington Visit

U.S. Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, visited Cascadia Tech Academy in Vancouver, Wash. on Monday, emphasizing the importance of the Interstate 5 Bridge's replacement. Buttigieg expressed optimism about the project, stating, "Because the funding is in place, it's going to happen."

Efforts to replace the bridge have previously failed, with the span recognized as a critical bottleneck for interstate commerce. Buttigieg pointed up its aging infrastructure, warning of the potential nationwide repercussions if the bridge were to become unavailable.

“You can see how it is showing its age and how catastrophically disruptive it would be if that bridge was unavailable even for one day,” Buttigieg said. “I think you would feel the effects across the country.”

The visit follows the USDOT's recent allocation of $600 million towards the replacement project, which is bolstered by $1 billion pledges from both Oregon and Washington. Additional funding applications, including a $1.5 billion grant request through the FHWA, are underway, although project costs are expected to exceed initial estimates due to rising construction expenses.

Buttigieg acknowledged the challenges posed by the project's escalating costs, attributing them in part to the demand for skilled labor in the construction industry. He underscored the role of programs like the IIJA in addressing such infrastructure needs but acknowledged the need for skilled workers to realize these projects. “We’re excited that we’re creating so many jobs that it’s difficult to find workers,” Buttigieg said. “But that’s also a huge challenge.”

Addressing a group of construction program students, Buttigieg expressed the possibility of their involvement in building the new bridge. “In order for that to succeed, so much depends on these young people — and everybody across the trades,” he said.

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