Portland’s aging downtown bridges are not expected to withstand a major earthquake. That’s why Multnomah County is taking the lead on making at least one crossing earthquake ready.

Located in the heart of downtown and on a regionally established lifeline route, it is critical that the Burnside Bridge is still standing after a major earthquake.  A resilient Burnside Bridge will help our community recover after a major earthquake and provide a long-term river crossing that supports our transportation needs for the next century. 

Over 100 options were studied during this project’s Feasibility Study Phase (2016-2018), including tunnels, ferries and other bridge options. From that study, four bridge alternatives were recommended for further evaluation. Since then, the Fixed Bridge alternative was dismissed from further study due to a large number of impacts that were identified through a navigational study.

The following four alternatives (along with a no-build or “do-nothing” option) are being studied in detail in the Environmental Impact Statement. Recently the project’s Community Task Force recommended the Replacement Long Span as the Preferred Alternative to move forward into design and then construction.  The recommendation must be further studied before it can be approved by Multnomah County and the Federal Highway Administration in 2021.

Learn about the four alternatives and what is being recommended.

1. Enhanced Seismic Retrofit

2. Replacement Short Span

3. Replacement Long Span (recommended Preferred Alternative)

4. Replacement Northeast Couch Extension

All alternatives are movable bridges.

    The project is currently in the Environmental Review phase, where we study the impacts and benefits of these remaining alternatives. At the end of this study in 2021, we will decide which alternative to build. 

    Environmental Review

    During the Environmental Review phase, we will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. This is federally required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

    This is an important phase of project planning where we take a hard look at the project alternatives and assess their benefits and impacts. This helps us make an informed decision about what to design and build. It guides us in understanding the tradeoffs and deciding which alternative best meets the needs of the project while balancing environmental effects.

    During the Environmental Review phase, we look at how each alternative, including the No Build alternative, would affect social, cultural, built and natural resources. We also look at cost, ease of building, ability to survive an earthquake and other factors.

    The EIS will include public input gathered throughout the study. During the month of September 2019, we asked the public to review and comment on important elements of the study, including:

    In summer 2020, we shared information and asked for community feedback on the Recommended Preferred Alternative and traffic options during construction.

    Environmental review is a long process. The goal is to choose a single alternative that best meets the community’s needs. Then we’ll be ready to get to work designing and building an Earthquake Ready Burnside Bridge.


    Environmental Review Phase: 2019-2021 

    Key Milestones:

    • Summer/Fall 2019 – share information and get input on items to consider in the study

    • Spring 2020 – issue formal Notice of Intent and get further input on items to consider in the study

    • Summer 2020 – share findings from the environmental study and ask for community input on the recommended Preferred Alternative

    • Winter 2020/2021 – publish the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and get community input

    • Fall 2021 – a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and a Record of Decision (ROD) will approve the Preferred Alternative that can then move into the Design Phase and then Construction

    Bridge Type Selection Phase: 2020-2021

    Key Milestones:

    • January/February 2021 – share information and get public input on a range of bridge type options and evaluation criteria
    • April 2021 – get community input on a recommended bridge type 

    Design Phase:  2021-2024

    Construction Phase: 2024-2029

    Questions or Comments?

    Please use this form to contact the project team with any questions or comments or to sign up for project updates.

    The information presented here, and the public and agency input received, may be adopted or incorporated by reference into a future environmental review process to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.