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 (2019-2022). 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 published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) documenting the results of the analysis. 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.
Upon completion of the Draft EIS, county leaders raised concerns 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 Replacement Long Span Preferred Alternative for the community to consider. The benefits and impacts of the proposed refinements to the Preferred Alternative were published in a Supplemental Draft EIS in April 2022. A Final EIS and Record of Decision is scheduled to be published in December 2022.
The Environmental Review phase is an important phase of project planning where we take a hard look at the project alternatives and assess their benefits and impacts. This is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal law enacted in 1970 to promote the enhancement of the environment. 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:
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, county leaders 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. In fall 2021, the project team shared and sought community input on three key cost saving refinements to the Preferred Alternative.
A Supplemental Draft EIS, documenting the results of the Preferred Alternative refinements was published in April 2022 for public review along with a 45-day public comment period.
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 late 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.
The additional cost savings analysis added about a year to the Environmental Review Phase, which has pushed the start of the Design Phase to late 2022. Depending on when funds are secured, construction could begin as soon as 2025.
Environmental Review Phase: 2019-2022
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/Winter 2021 – gather community input on key refinements to the Preferred Alternative
Spring 2022 – publish a Supplemental Draft EIS for public review and comment
Late 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: 2025-2030
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.