The $7.5 Billion Interstate Bridge Replacement project is afraid of what you’ll find out when they release their Environmental Impact Statement

IBR officially determined that “leaking” the project EIS would result in “negative public reaction” to the project

Guess what:  We have an advance copy of the draft EIS:  You can now see what they don’t want you to see.

Via a public records request, No More Freeways has obtained a copy of the “risk register” for the proposed I-5 Interstate Bridge Replacement Project, which would proposed a 5-mile long, 10 or 12 lane wide highway between Portland and Vancouver, to be built at cost of $7.5 billion (and likely more).

The risk register spells out everything that could affect the project’s cost or schedule.  We were particularly intrigued to read risk #246:

During the preparation of a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) admin drafts are shared outside of partner agencies and leaked to the public, resulting in negative public reaction and potentially hindering the decision-making process. The potential negative public reaction could lead to increased pressure on decision-makers to reject the proposal or make changes to it, which could ultimately delay or impact funding to the project

IBR is concerned that an early release of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will trigger a “negative public reaction,” and “hinder the decision-making process.” – meaning the project is delayed or opposed.


The project identified the steps it would take to make sure the public didn’t find out about what it was planning.  It’s “Risk Response Strategies” were to:

1) Ensure drafts are confidential and secure (e.g., utilizing password protected portals, marking documents with disclaimers). Consider the use of watermarks.

2) Work with partner agencies and communicate the legal implications of sharing drafts outside their agencies.

And IBR consultants diligently tracked progress to date:

Q4 2023: No significant/unmanagable [sic] leaks identified so far.
Q2 2023: Sent drafts to Agencies in early June 2023, have not heard of any
leaks to date. Will continue to monitor throughout the end of the calendar year.
Revisit risk Q3 2023.

In short, the EIS has been basically done for the past nine months, but ODOT and WSDOT are powerfully afraid that the draft document might leak out, and that when it does, the public will be outraged.

What could be hidden in the EIS?

You won’t have to wait, because the Just Crossing Alliance has obtained a copy of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement—which still hasn’t been released to the public.  (Metro released its copy to the JCA to comply with Oregon’s public records law).

There’s a lot to read, here’s a start:

The IBR is still a pig-in-a-poke:  The Draft SEIS still isn’t saying what kind of bridge the project will build, whether it will be single-level or double level, or whether it will have a lift span.  Despite the fiction that they are proposing a single Build alternative, the project still won’t advance the actual design it plans to build.  And make no mistake, a double-decker bridge has much different environmental impacts than a single level.  The single level causes more land-side disruption, and casts more shadows over the river’s fish habitat.  The two-deck bridge has much steeper on and off-ramps with real safety issues.  And whether the bridge has a lift-span or not makes a major difference to river traffic and long-term economic development.  By not choosing just one design the draft SEIS hides this decision and its consequences from public view.

Visual impacts are still hidden from view.  For years, the IBR project has got to great pains to conceal the visual impacts of its massive bridge, which will tower over the Vancouver waterfront, and construct wide elevated freeways over much of downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island.  There’s still precious little in the DraftSEIS to show what this will really look like, even though IBR has spent nearly $200 million on consultants, and of that, more than $1.5 million building a detailed “digital twin” of the bridge.

Say good-bye to the Hurley Building.  While there aren’t any pictures in the EIS, there is this ominous note buried in the Draft SEIS.  Under land use changes, the report says, vaguely:

“Would displace the Hurley Building (commercial office use) in Vancouver.”

The 6-story Hurley Office Building, a recent signature addition to the Vancouver skyline appears doomed.  The DEIS implies it will be demolished to make way for the elevated approaches to the towering new I-5 bridge.

The Just Crossing Alliance has posted a copy of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on its website.

We invite the public to take a close look.  In the coming days, we’ll have more to say about what’s in the document that the Washington and Oregon highway departments didn’t want you to see.