Advisory Report of Lessons Learned from the Failed Columbia River Crossing Project

SALEM, OR — Today, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson released an advisory report summarizing the history, current status, and future considerations for the Columbia River Crossing project, otherwise known as the CRC.

Nearly $200 million dollars and ten years were spent on the CRC, including project planning, completing federally required environmental reviews, obtaining permits, and conducting pre-construction design and engineering work. However, after Oregon passed legislation in 2013 to authorize its $450 million share of the project’s cost, Washington failed to follow suit. As a result, the CRC was terminated in 2014 without any construction. The two states will owe repayment of nearly $140 million to the federal government if they fail to make progress toward restarting the project by September 2019.

The CRC was a bi-state effort to modernize the existing stretch of Interstate 5 that connects Portland and Vancouver. The Oregon and Washington Departments of Transportation jointly led the project along with a number of federal and local agencies. The intent of the project was to improve safety, reduce congestion, and increase mobility on this notoriously congested section of I-5.

In the years since, the congestion problems have worsened and the safety issues on the bridge and surrounding area remain. The Interstate Bridge does not meet current seismic standards and risks collapse in the event of a significant earthquake. Recently, there has been renewed interest by some state and local officials in the region to restart CRC discussions.

In addition to providing a history of the failed CRC and a status of current efforts, this advisory report includes important lessons learned and leading practices for those charged with future bridge crossing efforts. Leaders can build upon the prior success of the collocated project team, work to improve public engagement, and leverage other states’ models for success. Learning from these valuable lessons and applying leading practices will help to mitigate risks and improve outcomes for similar projects in the future.  

“Any solution to address the failed CRC project must be a collaborative effort between local, state, and national stakeholders,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “The Interstate Bridge is a vital component to the success of the region's economy and affects the quality of life of the thousands who use the bridge every day. We can’t afford to fail again.”

Advisory reports are an initiative created by the Secretary of State Audits Division. The reports are not audits, but rather time-critical reviews, assessments, and evaluations designed to provide information to the public while following the same rigorous quality assurance process used for every audit report.

Read the advisory report on the Secretary of State website