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Federal grant will help replace Sellwood Bridge

Multnomah County Press Release - December 13, 2011

Multnomah County’s efforts to replace the Sellwood Bridge have received a major boost with the announcement of a $17.7 million federal grant.  The U.S. Department of Transportation award reduces most of the project’s funding shortfall and allows the county to move forward with its preferred design.

“We are thrilled to receive this news,” said County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, whose district includes the bridge. “Competition for these federal dollars was very strong. The award is a validation of the importance of our project.  We could not have done it without the support of Oregon’s congressional delegation.”

“Replacing the Sellwood Bridge is by far the largest transportation project Multnomah County has taken on in decades,” said County Chair Jeff Cogen. “I am very proud of the work we have done to solve a major transportation problem in our region.  Now we can focus on replacing the bridge and putting hundreds of people in our community back to work.”

More than 1,000 applications were submitted for $527 million in grants available through the TIGER III program, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.  The program supports projects that stimulate the economy and have a significant impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area.

"These are innovative, 21st century projects that will change the U.S. transportation landscape by strengthening the economy and creating jobs, reducing gridlock and providing safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The new Sellwood Bridge and westside interchange on Highway 43 will replace a narrow bridge that cannot support trucks or buses and has many structural problems.  The Sellwood is the state’s busiest two-lane bridge and the only river crossing in a 12-mile urban stretch of the Willamette River.  The new bridge will improve safety and access for all modes and be the region’s only Willamette River bridge open to private motor vehicles that is built to current seismic standards.

“I am extremely pleased that the Sellwood Bridge is receiving a TIGER grant, and that our regional efforts have paid off,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer, whose district includes the bridge. “We appreciate and thank the Obama Administration for its commitment to building a transportation system that works for our region.”

“I am thrilled that we’re one step closer to replacing the dilapidated Sellwood Bridge,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.  “This project will put construction workers to work now so that thousands of Oregonians have an easier and safer trip to work when it’s done.  It’s the kind of innovative transportation investment that will, yet again, allow Oregon to show how we can create economic opportunities while making our communities cleaner and easier to get around.”

Project innovations include moving the existing bridge to serve as a detour bridge, which will save up to one year of construction time and reduce costs by up to $10 million.  The project will add capacity without significantly increasing the number of motor vehicles.  Much of the future increase in capacity will come from bicyclists.

Project planning began in 2006.  Construction of the detour bridge will begin this week, while work on the new bridge will begin in July 2012.  The $269 million project should be completed by the end of 2015.

With the TIGER grant, the project has a $5 million funding shortfall.  Multnomah County plans to request unused funds from the state to help complete project funding.

More than 10,000 people provided input to the project during the planning and design phases. “We listened to the community and the final product will be better because of the input we received,” said Commissioner Kafoury.

Multnomah County maintains the Sellwood Bridge and leads the project to replace it.  Project funding partners include the City of Portland, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.  For information about the TIGER grant, visit www.sellwoodbridge.org/TIGER.

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