January 23, 2024

Merkley, Wyden, and Blumenauer Announce $200 Million Federal Investment for Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Replacement

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) today announced $200 million in federal funding to help cover costs needed to replace the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge in Oregon and Washington. The major funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) program, which received a significant boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  

The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge replacement project is focused on replacing the aging interstate bridge—a critical artery across the Columbia River—with a modern, seismic-resilient, and accessible bridge by 2029. 

“A top priority for the Mid-Columbia has reached a major milestone! This huge federal investment means the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge is closer than ever to being replaced to meet the diverse needs of the region, including keeping locals, visitors, and goods flowing safely throughout the Gorge,” said Merkley. “I have long championed this critical project and advocated to the highest levels of the Biden administration to ensure a federal commitment to a seismic-resilient bridge that will withstand any test—from facilitating evacuations during wildfire crises, to fueling the movement of agricultural products, to connecting people to world-class recreation opportunities.” 

“This is one of the many solid infrastructure investments I fought for in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which are drastically needed in Oregon and across the nation,” said Wyden. “Not only will this new project help increase access and strengthen the local economies in Hood River and White Salmon, but also build resiliency against damage caused by future natural disasters.”

“The Hood River-White Salmon bridge is a critical lifeline for communities on both sides of the river, but for too long it has been outdated, insufficient and not usable for anyone who wants to cross the river by foot or by bike,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “This is a well-deserved award, thanks to President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. I look forward to one day biking from Hood River to White Salmon on a beautiful, safe, modernized bridge that befits the Columbia Gorge community.”

The Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge crosses the Columbia River and connects the cities of Hood River, Oregon and White Salmon, Washington. More than 4 million vehicles cross the bridge every year, connecting Interstate 84 on the Oregon side and State Route 14 on the Washington side. For locals, the bridge is essential to access jobs, childcare, school, and medical services. 

The current bridge was built in 1924 and is functionally obsolete and nearing the end of its usable life. If not replaced, the 100-year-old bridge would have to be closed to truck traffic in six years and closed to all traffic by 2040. Among other shortcomings, the current bridge has two narrow lanes and no permissible passage for pedestrian or bike traffic. A new bridge will provide a number of improvements, including bike and pedestrian access, wider and safer vehicle lanes, and improved passage for river traffic on the Columbia. 

“The Port of Hood River is so thankful for the efforts of the Oregon Delegation, and the entire Pacific Northwest delegation, to prioritize this project for this region of the gorge,” Port Commission President Kristi Chapman stated. “The Port has committed to bridge replacement as their number one priority, and it is great to see what can happen when everyone is working together for a common goal. This replacement will greatly impact the entire region for the better.”  

“This funding comes at the perfect time, and will allow us to stay on schedule with building the new bridge,” said Mike Fox, co-chair of the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Authority. “Because our project is shovel-ready within the next 18 months, these funds will ensure we will move beyond design into construction. We are incredibly grateful to our bi-state federal delegation for their unwavering support of this project and helping to deliver this funding for a key interstate connector.” 

“This bridge is a lifeline for our local communities, so I’m thrilled to see this federal investment in our region,” said Marla Keethler, bridge authority commissioner and mayor of White Salmon. “It shows a commitment to rural sustainability—a new bridge will benefit residents on both sides of the river for generations to come.” 

“This grant puts us one step closer to building a new bridge, which can’t come soon enough for companies like mine,” said Doug Gibson, bridge authority commissioner and CEO of Mount Adams Fruit. “The constant closures for repairs and weight restrictions on the current bridge cost us a lot of time and money, so the new bridge will be an immediate improvement. It will boost our business and the entire agriculture industry out here. I can’t wait to see the new opportunities that come with it.”

In addition to the $200 million INFRA grant, Merkley, Wyden, and Blumenauer have worked together to secure additional grants that are critical to realizing a full bridge replacement, which is projected to cost $520 million. That includes a $3.6 million RAISE grant in 2023 to ensure the bridge is designed for safe bike and pedestrian access, and a $5 million BUILD grant in 2020 for earlier design and engineering. Additionally, Senators Merkley and Wyden secured $4 million for the Port of Hood River as a community-initiated project in the FY24 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) bill that passed the full Senate and awaits passage in the House. Together, Merkley, Wyden, and Blumenauer will keep championing efforts to bring in as much federal support as possible to ensure the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge replacement project is a success.