The Columbia River Gorge Commission is sponsoring a special public workshop to develop policies for the design and aesthetics of a new Columbia River bridge on Tuesday, March 9. The Oregon Department of Transportation, Washington Department of Transportation, Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, and other agencies have been working on a project -- called the "SR 35 Columbia River Crossing" -- that proposes replacing the existing Hood River Toll Bridge with a new, wider bridge that includes sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
The workshop will be held in the Gorge Room at the Best Western Hood River Inn in Hood River, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The commission is seeking ideas about what design issues should be considered in a replacement bridge. The public is invited to help craft the regulations that will govern the "scenic" aspects of the bridge, which will be included in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Management Plan. Currently, the Management Plan does not include provisions regarding how a new Columbia River bridge should be designed from an aesthetic standpoint.
The commission's workshop coincides with the next steps in a study to evaluate the feasibility of a replacement bridge. The SR 35 Columbia River Crossing Project team recently released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which evaluates the impacts of a preferred route for the replacement bridge. A Final EIS is planned to be prepared later this year, pending funding. Actual construction of a new bridge is not expected to begin for years.
Landings for the new bridge would be in the city limits of Hood River and White Salmon, where the provisions of the Gorge plan do not apply. The bridge span itself, however, passes through the Scenic Area's General Management Area, where new developments fall within the jurisdiction of the Scenic Area Management Plan.
"The workshop will generate creative ideas for the bridge," said Gorge Commission Executive Director Martha Bennett. "The new bridge, like the current bridge, will be an important structure. It will be seen for miles. It will be a symbol of the Gorge and of Hood River and White Salmon and Bingen. With sidewalks and bike lanes, the replacement bridge will be a recreation and economic resource as well, and we'll be looking at how to ensure it supports business, residents, and visitors to the area."