In Our Opinion: I-5 Bridge Designs Help Bridge the Public Divide

Another concept would have a single stacked deck, with vehicles on multiple layers. High-capacity transit and a shared-use path would be on the sides of the lower span.

The new drawings only show how a bridge could impact Vancouver; future designs will examine the Hayden Island interchanges and the south end of the bridge. “This is an example of the direction we’re going with our designs showing downtown Vancouver,” said Brad Phillips, civil design manager for the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program. “We’re currently working on similar visuals for the rest of the corridor, particularly focus on what it’s going to look like in the Hayden Island and Marine Drive area.”

Of course, any visual concept is secondary to the functionality of any proposals. According to a community survey conducted last fall, 78% of Washington respondents want improved travel times for vehicles and freight on a new bridge. This will require more than a bridge; it will require extensive improvements throughout the corridor to prevent traffic from backing up.

While such details are worth considering, the benefit of the concept drawings is the role they play in engaging the public, and this has included considerable effort on the part of the bridge program. According to officials, 79 virtual public meetings and events were held in 2021 and two community surveys generated more than 18,000 responses. More meetings and surveys are to come, and the organizers also boast that “three advisory groups and working groups, reflecting our community, inform, shape the program and build consensus.”

Consensus does not mean unanimity. But public participation throughout the process is key to building that consensus and ensuring that all concerns are heard. Our community cannot afford to go through another long process to come up with plans for a bridge collapse at the last minute.

In the meantime, concept drawings help create a vision of what a new bridge might look like.