ICYMI: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Visits Southwest Washington to Tour 107-Year-Old I-5 Bridge, Meet with Trades Workers and Students

USDOT
5 min readFeb 14, 2024

“She doesn’t look a day over 99” -Secretary Buttigieg

“It’s going to be a huge improvement for the Northwest.” -Bill Hess, Vancouver resident

Secretary Buttigieg in the mechanical room on top of the I-5 bridge

WASHINGTON — This week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Southwest Washington to tour the I-5 bridge on the eve of its 107th birthday, highlight the Interstate Bridge Replacement Project that was recently awarded $600 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and hear directly from the trades workers and students who will soon build the project.

Secretary Buttigieg began his visit to the region alongside U.S. Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez with a trip to Cascadia Technical Academy, a career and technical school, and had the opportunity to speak with high school students studying construction and engineering about the importance of the building trades and learn more about the skills they are already developing for future careers.

Sec. Buttigieg and Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez speak with a student at Cascadia Technical Academy

The Secretary and Representative then had a conversation with about 30 local union members and apprentices. They spoke about progress on the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project, the importance of trade workers as we head into an infrastructure decade, and discussed how President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is bringing more opportunities for work closer to home.

Sec. Buttigieg and Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez hear from union laborers and apprentices on how new infrastructure projects are creating good-paying job opportunities in the region

Secretary Buttigieg began his second day in Washington with a tour of the I-5 bridge — on the eve of the bridge’s 107th birthday — alongside Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, and local leaders to learn about the urgency of the massive infrastructure project and how it will create economic opportunity, reduce traffic congestion, improve public transit, and strengthen national supply chains.

Secretary Buttigieg speaks with Governor Inslee, Governor Kotek, and Interstate Bridge Replacement Project Administrator Greg Johnson

See below to see what they’re saying about the Secretary’s visit:

Associated Press: Buttigieg visits interstate highway bridge in Pacific Northwest slated for seismic replacement

Bill Hess lives along Vancouver’s waterfront and can see the bridge from his home. He said the hours he used to spend in traffic commuting from the Portland area to Vancouver, including on the I-5 bridge, pushed him to move to the Washington state side of the river in order to be closer to work.

“This is going to be a hassle because of the construction, but it’s going to be well worth it,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge improvement for the Northwest.”

The Columbian: ‘We have a sense of urgency about getting this done’: Buttigieg joins Washington, Oregon officials for tour of Interstate 5 Bridge

Carbs, caffeine and the Interstate 5 Bridge consumed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s Tuesday morning in Vancouver. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, renowned pie baker and expert in “cobbler diplomacy,” presented the secretary with two pies: key lime and huckleberry. One pie depicted the I-5 Bridge with its lift span up and the other with it down.

The Columbian: U.S. Rep. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visit Cascadia Tech Academy

“(The trades are) a unique American asset and an American identity,” Perez said. “To elevate that again and to take pride and seriousness in that, that is how we are going to build projects that last.” She said she wanted to bring Buttigieg to Cascadia Tech to show her constituents “how seriously we matter to folks like the secretary.”

KATU: It’s time to replace I-5 bridge, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg during visit

“People are counting on it every day. It’s part of their commute, it’s part of their lives, and if this bridge were to be unavailable, that would have ripple effects economically, felt for hundreds of miles,” Buttigieg told KATU news after the tour.

KGW: Buttigieg visits Interstate Bridge as Inslee, Kotek push for replacement project funding

“This is a big deal. I mean, this bridge is about to turn 107 years old,” Buttigieg said, adding that it “clearly” needs to be replaced.

Oregon Capital Chronicle: Buttigieg, Northwest governors visit Interstate 5 Bridge to support its replacement

As rush-hour traffic crawled across the Interstate 5 bridge between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the governors of both states celebrated the bridge’s 107th year. “She doesn’t look a day over 99,” Buttigieg quipped to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

KPTV: Buttigieg visits I-5 bridge that links Portland and Vancouver

“You really get a sense of how integral this is to the whole life of the region as a matter of economics just daily routines, commute, getting to school,” says Buttigieg. “If this bridge were to be unavailable even for a week, we would feel the economic impacts, probably nationwide and given the seismic issues that exist in this region.”

KOIN: Buttigieg: ‘This time I-5 Bridge will succeed’

Just one day before the I-5 Bridge turns 107, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the structure along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and other elected leaders.

The Oregonian: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tours I-5 bridge as officials grapple with rising costs

Buttigieg climbed the narrow staircase and stood in the tiny room above the northbound span of the bridge where workers operate the bridge’s lift mechanism. The bridge supervisor, Marc Gross, explained the workings of the structure as cars passing below shook the room.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: US transportation secretary on I-5 Bridge replacement: ‘It’s going to happen’

While speaking to a group of construction-focused students, he noted it’s possible they could be part of building the new bridge. “In order for that to succeed, so much depends on these young people — and everybody across the trades,” he said.

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