Letter: Retraction required due to conflict of interest

Letter writer Bob Ortblad believes an immersed tube tunnel under a channel near the center of the Columbia River should have been evaluated

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com

As professional engineers, the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program (IBRP) administrators and WSP USA consultants are obligated to acknowledge an obvious error in their assessment of a Columbia River I-5 immersed tube tunnel (ITT). 

Bob Ortblad
Bob Ortblad

The WSP’s “Tunnel Concept Assessment” evaluated an ITT under the current primary barge channel at the bridge lift near the Vancouver riverbank. This resulted in an ITT design that is too steep, long, and costly. An ITT under a channel near the center of the river should have been evaluated.

WSP USA has a conflict of interest in evaluating an ITT. WSP USA is anticipating hundreds of millions in bridge design and construction management fees. An alternative ITT design from a competing ITT engineering firm is a threat to these fees. To restore public trust, WSP USA must retract its misleading report and refund its fee.

The IBRP administration should contract for two parallel competing design teams, a bridge vs. ITT team. Only then will an ITT get a fair evaluation.

Vancouver, British Columbia, had competing bridge and ITT designs for a new Fraser River crossing. Last month, Vancouver officials chose an eight-lane ITT with dedicated bus rapid transit lanes.

WSP USA’s “Tunnel Concept Assessment” link

Bob Ortblad MSCE, MBA
Seattle, WA

1 Comment

  1. Martin Pagel

    It seems both states should hire tunnel experts to assess such tunnel option which may provide a safer shipping lane, better weather protection and easier connection with the streets on the island than a high bridge. Even getting an opinion from WSP presents a conflict of interest.


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