Columbia River bridge design is too low

The proposed Columbia River Crossing has turned into a high-stakes limbo dance: How low can the bridge go?

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CRC officials say they are trying to fix one of the most embarrassing problems with the troubled $3.5 billion Interstate 5 project: The freeway bridges as now designed aren’t high enough to accommodate some Columbia River ships.

The project went ahead with designs for spans with 95-foot clearances despite warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard the bridges needed to be higher to handle anticipated river traffic.

CRC officials have since told state lawmakers and the public they want to address the Coast Guard’s concerns by building higher spans with clearances of up to 110 feet.

But records obtained by WW show that 110 feet is still too low to satisfy the Coast Guard. And CRC officials—rather than work to redesign the bridges—are trying to get river users to change their practices. In one case, they’re hoping two tall-masted ships that routinely sail on the Columbia will dismantle their masts before going under the too-low bridges.

Read more in today’s Willamette Week.

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