Commuters between Washington and Oregon can expect some traffic delays this week. Rising flood levels on the Columbia River mean more lifts for the Interstate 5 bridge.
The Oregon Department of Transportation, which operates the Interstate Bridge, says the higher the river, the lower the clearance level for ships and vessels passing underneath.
ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said the bridge was lifted four different times by noon yesterday. Usually, it’s only raised once or twice a day.
“Traffic all comes to a stop when the bridge has to lift,” Hamilton said. “The lifts will last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, sometimes even longer than that, depending on the load. But we’ll be seeing more lifts in the days ahead as this water stays high.”
Those delays could impact the 132,000 vehicles that cross the Interstate Bridge every day.
“Under maritime law, bridge lifts have priority over highway traffic,” Hamilton said. “That’s sort of on the theory that the river was there first.”
The last time the river was this high at the Interstate Bridge was May 2011, when it reached 19 feet from rain and early snowmelt.
A flood warning continues for the Columbia River, which is now at 16.6 feet. The National Weather Service expects that to rise to more than 17 feet by Thursday.