Oregon transportation officials say the decision was made to keep the highways flowing for potential evacuees
VANCOUVER — The long-awaited nine-day closure of the northbound Interstate Bridge span along I-5 has been delayed by Oregon’s Department of Transportation, thanks to wildfires burning on both sides of the Columbia River.
ODOT had planned to begin the closure at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, pushing traffic onto the northbound span for both directions until Sept. 20.
“ODOT and our many partners have put a lot of work into this project over the last few years and it absolutely needs to get done,” said Rian Windsheimer, ODOT manager for the Portland area in a news release Thursday evening. “But this closure would have created additional congestion and right now we need to keep the highways moving for evacuees and emergency responders.”
The $13 million project has been in the works for more than two years. It involves replacing lift span parts, some of them 103 years old, in the south tower on the northbound bridge, which opened in 1917. A similar project took place in 1997 on the north tower on the northbound span.
A new date for the project has not been set. ODOT said they will work with their partners at Washington Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard to figure out a timeline that works.
The delay comes as welcome news for some, but may anger others. Businesses and their employees have been planning for nearly two years now to take time off in order to hopefully avoid the hours-long backups anticipated during the nine-day closure.
With wildfires forcing tens of thousands to evacuate in Oregon, and threatening some homes in Skamania County, the decision was made to keep the highways open in order to allow people to leave their homes as quickly and safely as possible if needed.
Wildfire resources are available on the governor’s website. The site is being continuously updated.
For more information about the project go to the project web site.
Go to TripCheck.com for up-to-date real time road conditions.