Hood River - White Salmon Bridge Replacement Project
The full story
A century-old bridge connecting three cities, two counties, and a crucial part of the community's history, faces deterioration and reduced efficiency. The efforts to build a new bridge have spanned three decades, and the formation of the Hood River White Salmon Bridge Authority signifies a major step towards progress. The new bridge will be wider, with unrestricted 12-foot lanes and a bicycle-pedestrian path, ensuring safety and improved connectivity. With collective support from the community, organizations, and motivated leaders, the project is on a successful trajectory.
Mike Fox, a fifth-generation Hood River Valley resident, traces his roots to apple and strawberry farming. Instead of farming, Fox pursued engineering and spent 45 working on megaprojects. In 2017, he retired and returned to Hood River, noticing the deteriorating state of the century-old bridge connecting the area. Driven by his deep connection to the community and love for engineering, Fox joined the Hood River White Salmon Bridge Authority, which now holds the responsibility for a new, wider, and modern bridge, reflecting community collaboration and a brighter future.
we can't put it off anymore.
“As I did some research, the bridge was pretty worn out. The structure itself is getting really old, it's 100 years old. We know there's cracks and various elements of it are failing that we have to repair every year. In approximately the last two years the sufficiency rating has gone from roughly 66 down to 6. With my background, I could just tell that that bridge is not serving that community and it's time to replace it, we can't put it off anymore.”
-Mike Fox, Commissioner from the Port of Hood River
30 years of work
"I think it's also important to acknowledge that where we are today is really the result of 30 years of work. Initial studies for this project started back in 1999, and in large part it's thanks to the work of the Port and Oregon legislators who in 2017 were able to secure the funding that's allowed us now to complete the NEPA process"
-Marla Keether, Mayor of White Salmon, WA
Jacob Anderson, a dedicated commissioner, embraces the value of community service and decision-making for betterment. Rooted in personal history, he champions the iconic "singing bridge" connecting three cities. Though questioned about tolls, he explains that ownership by the Port of Hood River and not the state Government necessitates public contribution for maintenance and expansion. Collaborating with local and state governments, as well as federal agencies, the goal is a new bridge. The local community raises reserves, preparing for a $1.75 toll increase. While acknowledging concerns, Anderson prioritizes the bridge's future, convinced that investment now avoids pricier maintenance later. It's a concerted effort to shape a more connected, accessible, and sustainable future.
declining no matter what
"I don't want to pay more tolls. I don't think anybody wants to pay more tolls. But I think there is a realization that the bridge is declining no matter what. Bridge tolls have to go up just to provide for the long term maintenance of this bridge. If we aren't able to get the state or federal funding. Because unless all this funding comes together, that's where we're going to be. We're going to be spending $100 million just to keep this thing in operation for the next 15 years. I'd rather put that $100 million into a new bridge. And that's why we're all working tirelessly to get us there."
-Jacob Anderson, Klickitat County Commissioner
Toll Rate assistance
“In the modern era, with electronic tolling, it gives you the chance to look more at equity issues and ways that underserved or unserved communities can be addressed; so there's everything from the ability of people to walk across, which you couldn't do before. Or bike across, which you couldn't do before. But also with electronic tolling, there's the ability or opportunity to give toll rate assistance to folks who need it.”
-Arthur Babitz, Hood River County Commissioner
Marla Keethler and Kevin Greenwood share a deep connection to a crucial bridge linking the communities of Hood River and White Salmon. Marla emphasizes the bridge's irreplaceable lifeline status, with 30-year-old replacement efforts, while Kevin highlights a state-working group's legislation for a new bridge authority. They underscore hidden structural issues and necessary closures that threaten vital activities, such as concern about access loss during a 72-hour closure. Local businesses depend on the bridge for survival. Despite budget constraints, Marla sees hope in federal investment, echoing the sentiment that this bridge is a resilient community investment.
We are a gateway
"Over 10,000 separate farm operations travel their produce across this bridge. We are a gateway for wheat down the Columbia River. For a lot of the orchard and pear industry. We feed this country. This infrastructure project actually moves the needle on the sustainability of our community long term, more so than many of those projects that are higher profile or have larger government agencies behind them."
--Marla Keether, Mayor of White Salmon, WA
business wouldn't survive
“ It's time-perishable loads and we have to get the concrete there when we say we're going to get it there. Without the bridge, the business wouldn't be able to survive. We wouldn't be able to employ those people. And they all have families and they all have homes.”
-Izak Riley, President of Rapid Ready Mix Co.