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How Local Politicians Scuttled a Crucial Federal Bridge Upgrade

The Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River is outdated and dangerous, and nothing will be done
How Local Politicians Scuttled a Crucial Federal Bridge Upgrade
Photographer: Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

The rotting bridge that carries traffic on Interstate 5, the busiest West Coast trucking artery, across the Columbia River between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., doesn’t have a real name. Known as the Interstate Bridge, the 98-year-old span is one of the most dangerous in the country. On the older northbound side, designed for Model Ts and horse carts rolling at 15 miles an hour, cars and 18-wheelers share three narrow lanes. Its humped roadway blocks drivers from seeing trouble ahead, and one section frequently lifts to let boats pass below, halting traffic. There are no shoulders. Last May, Rosemary Krystofiak, a retiree from Nevada visiting her son in Portland, stopped in a line of cars during a lift. Another driver slammed into her Jeep Grand Cherokee. The impact fractured Krystofiak’s vertebrae. “I thought I was going to die,” she says.