With the bloated Columbia River Crossing project mostly dead, we can turn our attention to a better, finer, cheaper solution. One possibility occurred to me that would open a route for light rail to reach Vancouver some day, not interfere with interstate road and train traffic, and be reasonably easy to accomplish. (I think it would cost about $300 million.) That is to replace the railroad bridge with another lift or swing-span bridge that is 39 feet higher than the existing bridge. Here's why.
Most of the lifts of the Interstate Bridges are either for maintenance or for barge traffic. Many of the barge lifts are because it can be difficult to navigate a set of barges underneath the hump of the Interstate Bridges, where the clearance is 72 feet, and then across the river to the swing span of the railroad bridge. The fixed portions of the railroad bridge have a clearance of 33 feet.
If the railroad bridge were 39 feet higher then its clearance would be the same as the fixed portion of the Interstate Bridges. Any vessel that could make it under the Interstate Bridges' fixed spans could make it under the new railroad bridge in a straight line instead of requesting that the Interstate Bridges lift so that the vessel could avoid the turn between the two bridges. The new railroad bridge would still require a lift span or a swing span to accommodate the occasional taller vessel from the Vancouver industrial district, but barges shorter than about 60 feet would no longer need to request the Interstate Bridges to lift. This is a twist on the Common Sense Alternative to the CRC, which contemplates adding a lift span to the railroad bridge in line with the hump on the Interstate Bridges; I'm suggesting that we raise the entire railroad bridge and not just add a lift span.
The new railroad bridge would be built to accommodate four tracks: two for the Burlington Northern and two for eventual light rail. Until light rail is constructed the unused area could accommodate a bikeway. ODOT and WSDOT could still play with the freeway ramps to their hearts' delight, without demolishing the heart of Hayden Island for a massive highway project.