Portland’s aging downtown bridges are not expected to withstand a major earthquake. That’s why Multnomah County is taking the lead on making at least one crossing earthquake ready.

Located in the heart of downtown and on a regionally established lifeline route, it is critical that the Burnside Bridge is still standing after a major earthquake.  A resilient Burnside Bridge will help our community recover after a major earthquake and provide a long-term river crossing that supports our transportation needs for the next century. 

Over 100 options were studied during this project’s Feasibility Study Phase (2016-2018), including tunnels, ferries, double-deck bridges and other bridge options. From that study, four bridge alternatives were recommended for further evaluation in the Environmental Review Phase. During this phase, we study the impacts and benefits of these alternatives along with a no-build or ‘do nothing’ alternative.

In late 2020 and early 2021, we asked for your thoughts on the initial recommended Preferred Alternative. With the recommendation from the Community Task Force and over 88 percent support from a community survey and robust engagement process, the Replacement Long Span was identified as the best option to move forward since it is best for seismic resiliency, has the lowest cost, and least environmental impacts. Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners approved the Replacement Long Span in October 2020. In early 2021 we also asked for your thoughts about the type of long span bridge that should be constructed, including consideration of girder, truss, cable supported and tied arch options, as well as bascule and lift options for the bridge’s movable span.

Additional engineering and cost estimating work completed in spring 2021 raised concerns among County leaders about the Project’s cost. Recognizing rising costs due to current economic conditions and competition for funds from other large projects in the region, County leaders asked the project team to analyze ways to reduce the cost so the project is more likely to be funded and built. After further cost, environmental and permitting analysis, and input from stakeholders, the project team identified three key refinements to the initial Long Span Preferred Alternative for the community to consider.

Learn more about the key refinements to the Preferred Alternative and cost saving measures studied and share your input.

In March 2022, we’ll publish a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) documenting the changes to the Preferred Alternative. The public will have another opportunity to review the changes and provide input. 

Environmental Review

During the Environmental Review phase, we prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS. This is federally required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

This is an important phase of project planning where we take a hard look at the project alternatives and assess their benefits and impacts. This helps us make an informed decision about what to design and build. It guides us in understanding the tradeoffs and deciding which alternative best meets the needs of the project while balancing environmental effects.

During the Environmental Review phase, we look at how each alternative, including the No Build alternative, would affect social, cultural, built and natural resources. We also look at cost, ease of building, ability to survive an earthquake and other factors.

The EIS includes public input gathered throughout the study. During the month of September 2019, we asked the public to review and comment on important elements of the study, including:

  • Bridge alternatives

  • Street space: how the travel lane widths on the bridge can be designed to best serve people walking, biking, taking transit, and driving in the future

  • Traffic management during construction

  • Evaluation criteria that will help determine a preferred bridge alternative for construction

  • Areas of interest to be studied in the Draft EIS

In summer 2020, we shared information and asked for community feedback on the Recommended Preferred Alternative and traffic options during construction. In fall 2020, the Policy Group approved the recommendation.

In February 2021, the Draft EIS, documenting the findings from the environmental analysis, was published for public review and comment. 

In spring 2021, as noted above, the elected leaders at Multnomah County asked the project team to look at ways to bring the project cost down while not reducing the bridge’s ability to withstand a major earthquake. In summer 2021, the project team studied and identified ways to reduce the project cost. The project team is now seeking community input on three key cost saving refinements to the Preferred Alternative. Learn more and share input here

Note: while a majority of the Community Task Force recommended the cost saving refinements, many expressed interest in adding more width to improve traffic and safety should funds become available.

In March 2022, a Supplemental Draft EIS, documenting the results and recommendations of the cost savings refinements will be published for public review and comment.

After receiving and addressing public comments on the Supplemental Draft EIS, Multnomah County and the Federal Highway Administration will review the findings, community input and recommendations before final approval in mid-2022. 

Environmental review is a long and formal process. The goal is to understand the impacts of all the alternatives and choose a single community preferred alternative to design and build. 

Schedule

The additional cost savings analysis added about eight months to the Environmental Review Phase, which has pushed the start of the Design Phase to mid-2022. Depending on when funds are secured, construction could begin as soon as 2025.

Environmental Review Phase: 2019-2022

Key Milestones:

  • Summer/Fall 2019 – share information and get input on items to consider in the study

  • Spring 2020 – issue formal Notice of Intent and get further input on items to consider in the study

  • Summer 2020 – share findings from the environmental study and ask for community input on the recommended Preferred Alternative

  • Early 2021 – publish the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and get community input

  • Summer 2021 – evaluate a range of cost saving measures to help reduce the cost of the project

  • Fall 2021 – gather community input on key refinements to the Preferred Alternative 

  • March 2022 – publish a Supplemental Draft EIS for public review and comment

  • Late Summer 2022 – publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and seek a Record of Decision (ROD) from Federal Highway Administration approving the Preferred Alternative. Project can then move into the Design Phase and then Construction

Design Phase:  2022-2024

Construction Phase: 2025-2029

Questions or Comments?

Please use this form to contact the project team with any questions or comments or to sign up for project updates.


The information presented here, and the public and agency input received, may be adopted or incorporated by reference into a future environmental review process to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.