Traffic and congestion have increased as the Longview community grows, contributing to safety and emergency response issues at the IWOW intersection. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 75 collisions at the intersection; nearly half of them were rear-end collisions, likely caused by congestion.
Without IWOW, the intersection is expected to become more congested. Traffic incidents are anticipated to increase with more vehicles on the roads, less space to maneuver, and more risk-taking by drivers as they grow frustrated with the congestion.
Completion of IWOW would improve safety and emergency response times by eliminating wait times for trains, adding roadway capacity, and separating rail, vehicular, and bicycle/pedestrian traffic.
Completion of IWOW would close three active, at-grade crossings, eliminating the risk of collisions between trains and vehicles, including those trains and trucks carrying hazardous materials. Some pedestrians and bicyclists also use the at-grade crossings; the completion of IWOW would also mean that traffic is moved to the overcrossing with proper signage and roadway channelization.
By increasing safety and reliability for multiple modes of transportation, IWOW will help support supply chain reliability, reduce costs, and increase local and national business competitiveness. This in turn helps reduce the costs of goods and services for American families.
Eliminating three at-grade rail crossings in this economically crucial corridor will support the long-term economic vitality of Longview, Washington, Cowlitz County, and rural southwest Washington by unlocking longstanding economic potential in a federally designated Opportunity Zone.
The project will enhance freight mobility in a heavily congested freight route and provide better access to a regional employment center located on the banks of the Columbia River, an international trade corridor, that includes the Port of Longview and Weyerhaeuser, and many other employers in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.
IWOW will improve safety and reliability for all who use the intersection – local commuters, emergency services, regional travelers, freight trucks, freight rail, and others.
IWOW will accommodate current and future freight and passenger vehicle traffic throughout Longview and Kelso, and between Oregon and Washington.
By supporting all modes of transportation, IWOW will improve connections for lower income communities and vulnerable populations to job centers in Washington and Oregon.
IWOW will support future economic growth by improving access to existing job centers as well as nearby properties with development potential. This includes privately owned properties as well as those owned by the City of Longview and the Port of Longview.
The construction and completion of IWOW will support more than 1,000 construction jobs and facilitate more than 3,000 new jobs in nearby underutilized industrial areas.
Environment justice and climate
Without IWOW, congestion increases and results in longer travel times, higher commuting costs, and more delays for transit and school buses. These impacts would affect all nearby residents to travel by vehicle as well as people who live outside the project area and travel through the IWOW intersection.
People living near the IWOW intersection are ranked by the EPA in the 88th percentile, where household income is less than or equal to twice the federal poverty level, and 93rd percentile such that household income is at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.
Properties near the IWOW intersection qualify as Historically Disadvantaged Communities in the categories of health, economy, equity, resilience. According to the EPA, this area historically ranks in the 80th to 90th percentile of diesel particulate matter, largely driven by idling trucks.
The IWOW intersection is bordered on three sides by industrial and commercial properties. The northwest quadrant is a distinct and cohesive residential area that includes the Highlands and St. Helens neighborhoods. These neighborhoods largely consist of older, single-family homes on tree-lined streets with extensive pedestrian and bicycle use. The residential area also includes several multifamily units, mobile home parks, and separate, smaller clusters of homes.
The residential area near the IWOW intersection includes concentrations of traditionally underserved populations, including individuals who are low-income, minority, disabled, elderly, youth, transit-dependent and those for whom English is not their primary language.
Completion of IWOW reduces congestion for all nearby residents, decreases emissions due to vehicles idling at the intersection, increases reliability for all moves of transportation, and helps support employment due to reliability of travel and economic opportunity unlocked by improving the intersection. Over the long-term, the IWOW project would substantially benefit the entire community, including environmental justice populations.
The IWOW intersection is one of Washington state's busiest intersections in terms of freight movement by truck. The Port of Longview and other local industrial operations currently move up to 20 million tons of gross truck tonnage each year through the intersection.
More than 20% of the traffic volume that moves through IWOW each day is made up of freight trucks carrying goods to and from the Port of Longview, nearby industrial businesses, and businesses and consumers around the region.
The IWOW intersection supports more than 3,000 vehicles per hour today. That number is projected to grow to nearly 4,500 vehicles per hour by 2040, even without construction of this project.
Around two trains per day currently cross multiple lanes of traffic at the IWOW intersection. That number is projected to double to four trains per day by 2040.
Each time trains operating on the existing at-grade rail crossings pass through the IWOW intersection, they delay traffic more than a minute per vehicle. During the afternoon commute, traffic delays approach capacity limits because a train blocks the roadway for an average of 10 minutes. During that time, backups can reach 3,000 feet long and take 20 minutes or more to clear.
By elevating all roadways over rail crossings, the completion of IWOW eliminates delays caused by train blockages. This saves time and reduces costs for all modes of transportation and reduces emissions from vehicles idling while they wait for trains to clear and traffic lights to turn. Goods and people move more quickly and efficiently, contributing to lower costs for businesses, workers, and families, and better financial and environmental health for the community.
Although rail service would still increase to four trains per day crossing through the intersection, completion of IWOW eliminates impacts from these train crossings on freight trucks, commuters, transit, emergency responders, and other local and regional roadway traffic. Drivers, dispatchers, and businesses would have more predictable conditions to plan trips, and daily traffic becomes more reliable for all who depend on this intersection.
WSDOT performed a cost-benefit analysis in 2021, which shows that completion of the IWOW project would result in:
- An estimated 23.9 million hours of travel time savings, resulting in $76.7 million in cost savings for businesses, workers, and families.
- Increases in employment and economic activity, due to more than 1,000 jobs resulting from design and construction activities.
- An estimated $6.2 million worth of reduction in fuel consumption.
- Fewer collisions due to the grade separation, saving $7 million in human health and property damage and lost time.
- More reliable emergency response times and travel times.
- Increased quality of life due to better bicycle-pedestrian and multimodal access.
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As early as 1968, Washington state transportation leaders first identified the need for improvements along the Industrial Way corridor. Several studies were conducted beginning in the 1980s, and in 2014 the SR 432 Highway Improvements and Rail Realignment Study identified over $356 million dollars in necessary improvements.
The purpose of the project is to develop a long-term solution that improves travel reliability, accommodates current and future freight traffic, and improves emergency response in Longview.
In 2015, the Washington State Legislature allocated $85 million for the design, engineering, and construction of the Industrial Way/Oregon Way (IWOW) project. The project was selected as a key first step because it brought the greatest benefits for congestion relief, freight truck mobility and safety. The purpose of the project is to develop an affordable long-term roadway solution that improves travel reliability, accommodates current and future freight traffic, and maintains or improves emergency response at the Industrial Way/Oregon Way Intersection in Longview.
The environmental review process began in 2015. In the spring of 2018, an initial preferred design alternative was identified. As the design was refined, the estimated project cost came in much higher than the funded $85 million. The project team has exhausted all cost reduction opportunities to bring the project back within budget. This included reduction in scope as phasing portions of the project was not an acceptable solution to the stakeholders. In 2022, the Washington State Legislature provided additional funding, bringing the current project funds to a total of $98.4 million.
In the spring and summer of 2022, WSDOT began an in-depth stakeholder engagement phase to reach a design concept that would be both cost effective and well endorsed by all stakeholder parties. Through this effort, additional improvements were identified and included in the design, driving up the cost of the project. Coupled with inflation and the recent increase in construction costs, the project faces a significant growth in cost which is currently being determined.
1968: Washington State’s Highways Department completes a Reconnaissance Report for the State Route (SR) 432 corridor
1971: A preliminary design for an Oregon Way Interchange is developed
1988—1990: Early planning begins to deepen the shipping channel in the Columbia River
1989: SR 432 Route Jurisdiction Study is completed (SR 411 to SR 4), and Industrial Way is designated to be SR 432
1995—1998: City of Longview acquires the Mint Farm and develops it into an industrial park
1999—2000: Port of Longview builds Berth 8
2001: SR 432 Route Development Plan completed (from Exit 36 of Interstate 5 to SR 4)
2002: Port of Longview completes the Fibre Way overpass
2002—2005: Port of Longview constructs its Industrial Rail Corridor
2006—2010: Columbia River Channel Deepening
- The State of Washington receives stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for high speed rail initiatives statewide
- SR 432 Rail Realignment Feasibility Study is completed (Tennant Way to 3rd Ave and Industrial Way from 3rd Ave to 38th Ave)
2009—2011: SR 432/Talley Way Interchange improvements are built, modernizing Exit 36 on Interstate 5
2012: BNSF Railway begins capacity improvements
2014: SR 432 Highway Improvements and Rail Realignment Study is completed
2015: Washington legislators fund what is now called the IWOW Intersection Project in the Connecting Washington package
2015—2018: IWOW Intersection Project begins its environmental analysis (NEPA/SEPA) phase and moves forward with preliminary engineering and design; 5 public open houses are held between September 2017 and March 2018
2016: The IWOW project’s Final scoping summary report is published
2018: The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is published and opens for public comment
2018—present: Design process reboots to develop a more affordable alternative
Spring 2020: IWOW project partners submit applications for federal grants to fund a modified design
Fall 2020: While the IWOW project was not awarded federal grant funds in 2020, WSDOT is continuing work with local partners to modify the design of the project and reduce the cost while maintaining key benefits
Spring 2021: IWOW project partners re-submit updated applications the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program to reflect a modified design. Grant application was unsuccessful.
Summer and Fall 2022: WSDOT began an in-depth phase of stakeholder engagement to look for both a cost effective and well endorsed design concept. As a result additional elements were added to the design concept which is now being modeled and analyzed for an updated cost estimate.
Fall 2022: WSDOT submits grant application for the Federal Rail Administration Railroad Crossing Elimination Program for the rail-associated costs of the project to help close the funding gap.
What happens if nothing is done at the intersection?
By 2040, congestion during the afternoon rush hour would be four times worse than today’s conditions.
Additional funding is necessary for any path forward, single phase or multi-phase. Given the project’s funding status, in coordination with our local partners, we started looking at paths to move the project forward...
Look for ways to get more funding.
- In 2020 and 2021, our project partners, under the City of Longview’s lead, worked to secure more funding through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) discretionary grant programs to make up a $13.4 million funding gap identified during design alternative analysis. Unfortunately, IWOW was not awarded additional funding.
- In 2022, Governor Inslee included an additional $13.4 million via his proposed 2022 supplemental budget. If the legislature funds the increase in the Governor’s proposed budget, it will be available for use after session ends on March 20, 2022, and the Governor signs the budget into law.
- In 2022, WSDOT submitted an applicant for the Federal Rail Administration's Railroad Crossing Elimination grant program.
Explore ways to build the project in more than one phase.
- It’s important to highlight that this path has tradeoffs. When projects are built in phases the combined cost of the phases is more expensive than if the project was built all at once.
- When projects are constructed in phases, only parts of the project would be built at one time. This provides faster congestion relief in some areas, but all the project benefits do not happen until all phases are complete when more funding is available.
- WSDOT may work with the stakeholder group to explore phasing, including setting goals and priorities for a phased approach, which will be used to evaluate phasing alternatives and inform decisions moving forward.
As part of our ongoing work to deliver the IWOW project, we have purchased nearby properties from willing sellers – properties needed for the project regardless of the overall design concept. This project activity can occur years before construction begins. In fall 2021, crews removed the strip mall that included a Subway and Starbucks at the intersection of Oregon Way and Industrial Way.
In 2022 local businesses and project partners expressed concerns about the existing design, specifically around the ability to access businesses during and after construction. To better understand these concerns and a path forward, the project team conducted interviews with stakeholders in business, government, transportation, and economic development. Individual interviews with stakeholders revealed consistency among multiple priorities, including:
- improving the interchange for current traffic;
- preserving and improving businesses’ access;
- supporting commerce in the Longview Mill Complex campus and surrounding industrial and commercial areas;
- supporting future growth in Longview and Kelso;
- supporting bistate and regional transportation and economic needs; and
- improving safety and emergency response capabilities.
The project team presented these findings in a group stakeholder meeting to collectively discuss and confirm priorities. A second group stakeholder meeting was held to discuss the three original project design concepts and gather detailed feedback.
This feedback was used to inform the evolution of the current design concept that was aimed at addressing:
- expressed operational needs from the business community,
- broader state and local travel needs,
- improved pedestrian and bicyclist access,
- reduced impact to residential and business private property owners;
- and WSDOT priorities.
This updated proposed concept was presented at a third group stakeholder where the project team walked through the concept, describing major elements and operations. Stakeholders shared general feedback and verbally confirmed that they did not see any fatal flaws in this updated proposed design. The group was supportive of WSDOT and its consultants taking the next steps to model operations, construction phasing and potential impacts, and an updated cost estimate.
Critical stakeholders and partners of this project include:
- City of Longview, WA
- City of Kelso, WA
- Cowlitz County
- Cowlitz Economic Development Council
- Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments
- Port of Longview
- Mill Complex businesses
- BNSF and Union Pacific
- Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
- Federal Highway Administration
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (26.7 MB) was published for the IWOW project in February 2018. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), WSDOT and Cowlitz County are the project’s joint-lead agencies. The FRA has been, and continues to be, a cooperating agency for the project’s NEPA process. After the Draft EIS was published, WSDOT determined that the cost to construct the alternatives evaluated in the Draft EIS exceeded available funding. Since then, Value Engineering efforts and extensive coordination with the project partners and stakeholders (including the rail line operators) have occurred to reevaluate and revise the project alternatives.
The project will complete the NEPA process and documentation for the IWOW project. With the changes to the project alternatives, and the time that has passed since the Draft EIS was published, WSDOT will complete a NEPA Re-evaluation for FHWA’s review. Based on the NEPA Re-evaluation, it is anticipated that the project would proceed with its Final EIS, which would include coordination with FRA as a cooperating agency to ensure the process and documentation continues to comply with FRA’s Procedures for the Consideration of Environmental Impacts (effective May 26, 1999) (Environmental Procedures). The project’s Record of Decision (ROD) would be issued after the Final EIS.