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Originally published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 12:56 PM

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I-5 bridge height could cost companies millions

Planners working on a proposed Interstate 5 replacement bridge over the Columbia River estimate three manufacturers upriver could lose $30 million to $116 million in profits because they won't be able to get some of their big products under the span.

The Associated Press

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PORTLAND, Ore. —

Planners working on a proposed Interstate 5 replacement bridge over the Columbia River estimate three manufacturers upriver could lose $30 million to $116 million in profits because they won't be able to get some of their big products under the span.

The manufacturers fabricate giant devices such as oil drilling rigs and dam gates. They say the estimates of the damage to their businesses are too low.

The bridge planners released the estimates Tuesday, the Oregonian reported (http://bit.ly/ZJh9Aq). They came from a bridge permit application filed Jan. 30 with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The planners for the states of Oregon and Washington have raised the projected height of the span, from a vertical clearance of 95 feet to 116 feet, affecting fewer vessels.

They say it would cost too much - $250 million - to design a lift span, and it's too late to add the design and stay on track with the federal funds needed to build the $3.4 billion project.

The loss estimates are part of negotiations for mitigation payments to three companies at a Vancouver site where Liberty ships were made during World War II.

Large buildings, a deep-water barge slip and a yard made of crushed rock to bear heavy equipment make the site unique, company managers say.

The manufacturers say the estimates failed to take into account the value of large shipments.

Tom Hunt of Thompson Metal Fab Inc. said the company "has always been a strong supporter of the bridge."

"We'll continue to support it right up until the place that we understand that they're going to put us out of business," he said. "If we can't be appropriately mitigated, and they're not going to increase the clearance, then, yeah, it will severely damage us."

CRC spokeswoman Patricia McCaig said the $30 million to $116 million range is an estimate of the net present value of lost profits from future contracts the companies have lined up. "You have to base your information on facts and then negotiate from there," she said.

The new span is aimed at relieving traffic congestion, guarding against major transportation disruptions in an earthquake, and extending light-rail service to Vancouver.

The Oregon House passed a bill Monday to authorize bonds for $450 million, an amount expected to be matched by Washington state. The Oregon Senate is to consider the legislation Monday.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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