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 fall 2020, after a robust evaluation process and gathering input from the public, the project’s Community Task Force and Policy Group recommended the Replacement Long Span as the Preferred Alternative to move forward into design and then construction. Multnomah County’s Board of Commissioners approved the Replacement Long Span in October 2020.
In spring 2021, the elected leaders at Multnomah County who are responsible for the EQRB project asked the project team to look at ways to bring the project cost down . While the recommended Preferred Alternative was the lowest cost option studied, the County has only about one third of the funds needed to build it. At the same time, the County will explore additional funding sources. Reducing our costs and securing outside funding will make it more certain the new bridge gets built.
Cost Savings Analysis
During summer/fall 2021, the project team will study a range of cost saving measures. While this will require changes to the recommended Preferred Alternative, it will not reduce the bridge’s ability to withstand a major earthquake. Before making any decisions, the project will carefully analyze the implications of these cost-reduction measures.
Bridge Type Selection
An important step in the process is to select the type of long span bridge to build. This also includes the type of movable span. In February 2021, the community shared input about a range of bridge types under consideration. This input helped to narrow the range of bridge types and will inform the refinement of criteria for selecting a recommended bridge type to design and build. After completing the cost savings analysis, we’ll know more about the cost of the remaining bridge types. This will help inform the final recommended bridge type.
While the online open house is now closed, you can still review the information shared in February 2021 about the initial range of bridge types considered.
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:
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 the Recommended Preferred Alternative was the lowest cost of the alternatives studied, current competition for funding of large infrastructure projects is high and poses challenges to securing adequate funding. The County has access to about $300 million for the project from its local vehicle registration fee. The cost range for the Preferred Alternative in the Draft EIS exceeded $800 million. The County always anticipated seeking additional funding sources, but is concerned that the current cost estimates may not be feasible to fund. While the project team studies ways to reduce project cost, the County is working to identify and secure more funds. The aim is to achieve the right balance between the project design and the project cost, ensuring that the project can get built.
Finding cost-savings will require changes to the recommended Preferred Alternative that do not reduce the bridge’s ability to withstand a major earthquake. Before making any decisions, we are going to carefully analyze the implications of the potential cost-reduction measures.
In February 2022, a Supplemental Draft EIS, documenting the results and recommendations of the cost savings options will be published for public review and comment.
To learn more about why these changes are being studied now, review these Frequently Asked Questions.
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.
The additional cost savings analysis will add about eight months to the Environmental Review Phase, which will push 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
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/Fall 2021 – evaluate a range of cost saving measures to help reduce the cost of the project
February 2022 – publish a Supplemental Draft EIS for public review and comment
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
Bridge Type Selection Phase: 2021-2022
- January/February 2021 – share information and get public input on a range of bridge type options and evaluation criteria
- Summer/Fall 2021 – evaluate cost saving measures to help reduce the cost of the project
- Spring/Summer 2022 – gather input on a recommended bridge type
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.