Inflation and new design push the price of Industrial Way and Oregon Way to around $180 million

The projected cost of long-term plans to make the intersection of Industrial Way and Oregon Way less congested jumped at least about $95 million above the original 2015 estimate, in the hope that the state legislature will make up the difference in 2023.

The new price was announced by the Washington State Department of Transportation at a meeting Tuesday in Longview. Transportation leaders met with city and county officials, elected officials from District 19, business representatives and other parties to build support for the project ahead of the January legislative session.

The new estimate is at least more than double the original $85 million allocation given by the Washington State Legislature in 2015. WSDOT Southwest Regional Director Carley Francis said it will be the second-costliest transportation project the department has pursued in southwest Washington, behind the bridge replacement of the Interstate 5.

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“We went from a basic idea with a reduced design and progressively added rear elements to achieve something that makes sense and is well approved,” said Francis.

For about seven years, officials have proposed raising the intersection of the Industrial and Oregon Ways above the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines to prevent trains from slowing down vehicle traffic near where the roads join via the exits from Longview Harbor and the Lewis and Clark Bridge.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Francis and the department’s consultants explained the reasons for the new cost. Inflation and rising procurement costs pushed the project’s cost base to $130 million. New additions, including a roundabout and additional roads allowing trucks to access businesses along Industrial Way, added another $40 million.

“That means the bridge needs steeper slopes, which means higher walls. It’s that extra ripple that adds up to the ultimate cost change for the project,” said WSDOT Principal Engineer Devin Reck.

The remaining increase is a built-in price reserve to deal with the future effects of inflation on costs. Francis said the department was still working to come up with an exact emergency figure, but estimates put the total cost of the project at between $180 million and $200 million.

The final funding request for the project will go into the budget proposed by the Ministry of Transport for the next biennium. This budget will be submitted to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, who will release his official statewide budget proposal by the end of the year.

Local support for the new design

Many local leaders at Tuesday’s meeting were encouraged that the Department of Transportation has reinvigorated the IWOW project this year. Tuesday’s meeting followed a series of meetings over the summer to update priorities and design preferences for the new intersection.

“I’m much more optimistic now that we’re focused on a plan that will work for everyone involved,” Longview City Manager Kurt Sacha said.

In a statement Thursday, a spokesperson for Nippon Dynawave Packaging said the company appreciated the discussions and amendments to the plan. “We look forward to continuing to work with the WSDOT on how these impacts will be minimized during construction and afterward,” the statement said.

Longview Harbor Commissioner and State Senator Jeff Wilson were more divided on the current plan. Wilson said he would support any proposed infrastructure improvements for his district, but needed to speak with the port to ensure the new design matched their projected demands for rail and road traffic.

WSDOT Shares Draft Final Industrial Way / Oregon Way Intersection

“Whatever design is accepted by the community, we would like to have the option that would provide unit train service at a later date. But don’t build it that way just for port,” Wilson said.

The Town of Longview, Port of Longview, BNSF Railway and the three companies in the factory complex have submitted letters of support as WSDOT seeks a federal grant for the elimination of level crossings.

Another meeting will likely take place before the end of the year to finalize the Legislative Assembly’s approach. If the project is fully funded, WSDOT officials said the goal is to finalize the design over the next few years, issue a tender in 2026 and begin construction near the end of 2027.

Eleanor C. William