West Side Bridge – WestExpress


Western Express (Phase I)

WestExpress (WE) is a new high-speed Interstate corridor connecting Vancouver, North Portland and the Sunset highway in a pleasant 15-20 minute drive. Designed to enhance throughput WE consists of two bridges and a tunnel, bypasses Metro Portland and connects four industrial parks with I-5. Among it’s attributes WE might also be considered an enabling precondition for upgrades and eventual replacement of the existing I-5 Interstate Bridge.

Evaluation Criteria Detail

   Direct Citizen Impact Factors

Citizens Direct Costs (CDC): WestExpress (WE) is contemplated as a federal, state and municipally funded project.  To enhance throughput and properly relieve existing overloaded I-5, 205, and 405, WE is toll free.

Throughput Improvements for Citizens (TIL): WE will be a limited access, high speed, 6-lane (two throughput lanes, north and south, third lane dedicated high speed merge) bypass arcing west of downtown Portland.

WE connects (I-5) Vancouver, WA to Northwest Portland at North 405 (Phase I), changing this 40 minute commute to just 15 minutes.

Immediately after crossing the Columbia River there will be a 4-lane connector returning directly to I-5 South utilizing existing ramps. This bypass will provide for expedited current bridge maintenance and upgrades and flow relief with current bridge congestion and accidents.

WE (Phase II) then extends to Beaverton/Hillsboro, Hwy 26 via a tunnel (Forest Park vicinity). This will greatly reduce congestion and travel time in the Sunset corridor, particularly around the Zoo and 405 connections.

Citizen Disruption to Build (CD): WE route is chosen to facilitate transit and minimize disruption to existing buildings, roads and vegetation. The Vancouver interchange is designed such that construction can be accomplished with virtually no impairment of existing I-5 traffic flow. All existing ramps are preserved and area commerce will be unaffected by construction and enhanced by the completed improvements. This minimal disruption is made possible by the idea that WE is not a replacement for the current I-5 Columbia River bridge, but rather an alternate/supplement diverting only a portion of the current I-5 north/south traffic flow. WE is a necessary precondition to replacement or major upgrades to the existing I-5 bridge.

westexpress-2The St. Johns segment will be built in the airspace over BN railroad cut and cause little disruption to St. John city traffic. The St. Johns interchange connecting the city and Swan Island to WE is not yet designed and though much of it will be in air space above University of Portland playing field, construction will cause some local disruption.

The northwest Portland segment will be elevated until it connects with the northern aspect of 405. The modest traffic and commerce e disruption during construction with be hugely offset by facilitated traffic and freight flow at completion of expressway.

   General Impact Factors

Project Costs (PC): Phase I and II are expected to cost $20 Billion +/- in current dollars, spent over a 8 year build out.

Finance Options (FO):  This candidate project is presumed to look to federal, state and municipal dollars for funding.  There may be a roll for tolls at the four industrial parks that connect to WE corridor (see commerce impact).

Environmental Impact (EI):  WE route is designed to avoid sensitive wetlands and in general flows over golf course, Portland Raceway and slough on elevated roadways.  WE features a 20-mile long elevated bike and pedestrian path with expansive views of the city, wetlands and Cascade Range.  This “skyline path” will become an iconic northwest experience for Portland metro, national and international outdoor enthusiasts.

Execution Effort (EE):  WE consists of Columbia and Willamette River bridges, a ¾ mile viaduct in the BNRR airspace (St. Johns segment).  All river bridge and viaduct construction is contemplated to be componentized, preformed concrete box construction.  The major construction staging area can be located on land immediately adjacent to the Port of Portland and the WE route.

Throughput Improvement for Region (TIR): WE redirects 25% of auto traffic and 40% of truck traffic away from the I-5 metro corridor, significantly unloading three major bridges and their interchanges:

* I-5 – Columbia River Bridge
* I-5 – Fremont – 405
* I-5 – Marquam – 405

WE will direct traffic unobtrusively under St. Johns, unloading St. Johns Bridge and facilitating auto and truck traffic egress from the village of St. Johns.

Commerce Impact (CI): WE connects four industrial parks, Vancouver, Port of Portland, Swan Island and North Portland industrial area, greatly facilitating trucking and commerce,  and upon completion of Phase II, Beaverton/Hillsboro, Nike and Intel complexes will be directly connected, facilitating critical shipments to SeaTac and Port of Seattle.

Timing to Achieve (TTA):

Phase I – WestExpress
Vancouver  -to-  “WestExpress” Bridge  -to-   NW PDX  -to-   I-5
“West Express” Flows Just East Of B.N. Railroad Bridge

I-5 Vancouver and Port Of Vancouver
Port Of Portland/Marine Drive
St Johns/Swan Island
NW PDX Industrial

Phase 1a: Vancouver – “WestExpress” Bridge, BN Railroad Bridge Proximity to Marine Drive/Port Of Portland and I-5 Reconnect   Completion: 11-1-2021

Phase 1b: Port Of Portland via B.N. R.R. Airspace Viaduct To Swan Island/St Johns Interchange.  Completion: 11-1-2022

Phase 1c: Swan Island/St Johns “Express” Bridge #2 (Willamette River) To NW PDX Industrial and 405 Connect.  Completion:  11-1-2023

Phase II – WestExpress – South Extension: NW PDX  -to-  Hwy 26 (217) – “Peterkort” Area Via “Express” Tunnel (Forest Park).  Completion: 11-1-2024

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Further Online Resources

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Back to Transportation Through-Put Matrix 

Original analysis: 10-3-2016.  Updated: 10-6-2016.