Hood River-White Salmon Bridge Receives $200 Million from Cantwell-Authored Program to Avert Impending Closure

If not replaced, 100-year-old bridge would have to be closed to truck traffic in six years and closed to all traffic in 2040; New bridge will reduce delays for the 3 million tons of PNW wheat and barley that pass under the narrow bridge on Columbia River barges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced that the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge replacement project will receive $200,000,000 in federal funds from a Department of Transportation (DOT) grant program authored by Sen. Cantwell.

“The Hood River-White Salmon Bridge not only connects people on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge, it’s also a crucial linchpin in our wheat, barley, and timber trade economy. The new bridge will eliminate a 50-mile detour for heavy trucks and improve navigation under the bridge for barges, allowing businesses in the Pacific Northwest to get their goods to market faster,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Without a major renovation, this bridge was set to close to trucks by 2030, so this federal down payment couldn’t have come at a more critical time.”

“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.”

The funding comes from the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) program. Sen. Cantwell created the INFRA program in 2015, establishing the first freight infrastructure-focused grant program at DOT. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provided the program with $8 billion over five years, a 78% increase in funds from the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act of 2015/the previous surface transportation reauthorization bill (FAST Act).

Since the inception of the INFRA program in 2015, the State of Washington has received 10 INFRA grants totaling $481,174,191. The grant announced today is the largest INFRA award the state has ever received.

The $200 million grant is expected to cover nearly 40% of the total $520 million project cost.

The Hood River – White Salmon Bridge is a critical link spanning the Columbia River, connecting Oregon and Washington in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The replacement bridge will have higher clearances, wider lanes, better signage, seismic improvements, and a separated cross-river connection for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Facts about the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge

  • The bridge is an essential crossing point over the Columbia River with more than 4.3 million vehicle crossings annually.   The next closest bridges crossing the river – Bridge of the Gods and the Dalles Bridge – are more than 20 miles in either direction.
  • The bridge was built in 1924 and is considered functionally obsolete. If not replaced, it would have to be closed to truck traffic in 2030 due to safety concerns, and ultimately closed to all traffic in 2040.
  • Every year over three million tons of wheat and barley, along with petroleum products, logs, and wood chips, pass under the bridge’s narrow opening for barges. Only one vessel can pass at a time, which delays barge traffic.
  • Pedestrians and bicycles cannot safely cross the current bridge.

Facts about the Planned Replacement Hood River-White Salmon Bridge

  • Project planners estimate cars will be able to travel twice as fast on the new bridge, with travel speeds increasing from 22 mph on the current bridge to 45 mph on the new one.
  • The new bridge would increase the navigational width for maritime traffic by 50 percent. This will make it faster and safer to move the 9 million tons of cargo that is transported by barge under the bridge each year.  
  • The new bridge will have a 12-foot-wide shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • The new bridge is expected to reduce vehicle crashes, emissions, and overall travel time.

In May 2023, Sen. Cantwell helped secure a $3.6 million grant for the Hood River-White Salmon bridge replacement project and wrote a letter to Secretary Buttigieg in support of the project.

The State of Washington will also benefit from a $12,287,247 INFRA grant to deploy a regional truck parking information management system (TPIMS) at approximately 54 truck parking facilities along the I-5 corridor in Washington, Oregon, and California. Additionally, the project will collect and disseminate real-time truck parking information to connect truck drivers with available truck parking.

“Commercial drivers need all the tools available to them on the road. Access to information concerning truck parking availability along the I-5 corridor is key to industry safety, productivity, and compliance. The industry looks forward to availability of real time information so that decisions on where and when to take a break can be made with confidence,” Sheri Call, President & CEO, Washington Trucking Associations.