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  #321  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2008, 2:10 AM
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Where's PuyoPiyo to tell you guys that Light Rail is a stupid Portland idea and that Vancouver will soon be the regional super power?
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  #322  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2008, 2:48 AM
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Bridge to Disaster
A Proposed New 12-Lane Bridge over the Columbia River Will Cost $4.2 Billion, Increase Traffic, and Do Little to Alleviate Climate Change. What the Hell Are We Thinking?

Portland Mercury
BY AMY J. RUIZ

A man driving a gray Toyota pickup truck seems frantic; veering in and out of lanes trying to pass other traffic on the Interstate Bridge. His furtive moves don't do him much good—moments later, as we crest the green steel bridge headed south into Portland, we're greeted with flickering brake lights. Traffic slows to a plodding 20 miles an hour. We've stumbled into the morning congestion, a daily feature of the Vancouver-to-Portland commute.

Fortunately, it's a commute I never have to make. I drove to Vancouver on a recent morning to guide my Oregon-plated car into the current of vehicles bearing Washington plates purely as an experiment. I spent twice as much time in the southbound lanes trying to return to Portland as I had in the northbound lanes venturing into Vancouver. My blood pressure rose. I cursed OPB's April Baer for reminding me about the traffic I was clearly stuck in.

Like me that day, the vast majority of people driving across the bridge each morning—and back across each evening—are coming from Vancouver. According to 2005 numbers, 64 percent of people crossing the bridge southbound hopped onto I-5 via one of Vancouver's on ramps. Northbound, 60 percent of vehicles jump off the freeway into Vancouver. Unsurprisingly, Vancouver—with its cheaper real estate—is functioning as a bedroom community to Portland. And unsurprisingly, those commuters would like an easier commute into Portland.

One answer may be on the way, in the form of a $4.2 billion, 12-lane replacement bridge, coupled with light rail or bus rapid transit, and smoother on and off ramps in the five miles surrounding the bridge. Traffic engineers say the new bridge across the Columbia River—AKA the Columbia River Crossing—will make travel between the two states easier, safer, and faster.

It's the biggest public works project in our region's history, it's been years in the making, and local government bodies are poised to make final decisions on the project in the next few months. The problem is, even if we build one of the proposed new bridges, traffic is still going to increase from today's levels. And in an era of climate change—when a state task force has recommended drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 75 percent below 1990 levels—increasing lanes and thereby increasing commuter traffic is simply unacceptable.

A Recipe for Disaster


Nearly everyone agrees that the bridge and the five miles of freeway surrounding it are trouble spots. Columbia River Crossing graphs show that current collision rates are proportional to traffic volumes, but "appear to increase two-fold" during peak congestion. Short entrance and exit lanes give drivers little room to maneuver into a through lane. The bridge lifts about once a day to allow river traffic to pass underneath, and "three to four times more collisions occur" on the bridge during a lift, when traffic is stopped. (The bridge has the only red light on I-5 between Mexico and Canada, too.) Transit options are limited, carrying an average of only 3,475 people across the bridge each day. Clearly, the crossing could be improved.

In 2001, Oregon and Washington agreed. The "Transportation and Trade" partnership recommended coming up with solutions to congestion in three spots, including the bridge over the Columbia.

In 2005, the Columbia River Crossing project was born. By last spring, the 39-member Columbia River Crossing (CRC) task force narrowed down the possible solutions to five that address the area's problems: "congestion, dangerous travel conditions, and travel demand that exceeds capacity," according to a CRC summary. The options include both a 10-to 12-lane replacement bridge and a four-to five-lane supplemental bridge that would augment the existing span, which would be downsized to four lanes. Both of those options are being studied twice: once with light rail, and once with bus rapid transit. The fifth option is a "no build" option that compares the alternatives to doing nothing.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzing those five options will be released sometime this month. From there, the public can weigh in for 60 days, and the local jurisdictions—including the City of Portland and Metro—will vote on the "locally preferred alternative" chosen by the CRC task force. Once the agencies agree on an alternative, the project will be submitted for federal funding, with the goal of starting construction in 2010.

The DEIS isn't out yet, but there's already data on the five alternatives—and the numbers don't look too good.

Right now, 134,000 vehicles cross the bridge in a given day.

If we do nothing—absolutely nothing—that traffic is going to increase thanks to growth in the region, causing many more hours of congestion. By 2030, CRC staff estimate, 184,000 vehicles will use the I-5 bridges daily, a 34 percent increase from today's levels, and they'll be stuck in eight hours of northbound congestion, and seven hours of southbound congestion. In other words, that section of freeway will be clogged up just about all day.

But if a replacement bridge is built, paired with high-capacity transit like light rail, and tolled, traffic in 2030 will be only 178,000 vehicles a day. That's a decrease, project staffers argue, if you compare it to 2030 traffic without a new bridge, transit, and tolls. Indeed, according to their math, the $4.2 billion project gives us a three percent reduction in traffic—compared with sitting around and doing nothing.

But according to the project staff's own numbers, it's light rail and tolls that has the biggest impact on the traffic in 2030, reducing it by a whopping 20 percent. CRC staff compared a new bridge with transit and tolls to a new bridge without transit and tolls. Without the alternatives and fees, roughly 225,000 vehicles would use the bridges in 2030. With them, 2030 traffic is cut by one-fifth—to the 178,000 figure.

The problem is, no one has bothered to study what happens if we do the things that deter people from crossing the bridge in the first place. Ideas that would give commuters an alternative, but don't make driving an easier choice. In other words, could we reduce traffic by 20 percent today by building light rail to Vancouver, and tolling the bridge now, without spending billions of dollars on a new, bigger bridge? Instead of giving Vancouver drivers a continued excuse to drive their single-occupancy vehicle into Oregon every day, why not give them reasons to leave the car at home?

But that option's not on the table. What the hell are we thinking?

Climate Change Is Coming

According to the final report of Governor Ted Kulongoski's Climate Change Integration Group (CCIG), released in January, Oregon needs to "act now" to address the threat of global warming.

If we don't, the prognosis is grim.

"A broad scientific consensus tells us that climate change is accelerating, and that it is happening at a speed that was unanticipated even recently," the CCIG report says. "It is urgent that we act now, both to reduce the cause of this earth-transforming crisis by rapidly driving toward a low-carbon economy, and to begin to prepare for and adapt to the changes that mitigation cannot prevent."

The CCIG report doesn't mince words in describing Oregon's future, if we don't make drastic changes. "Sea-level rise is likely to erode beaches, flood low-lying areas, and increase the damage during storm surges. Changes in average growing season temperature will change the types of wine varietals that may be grown in Oregon, making some areas suitable for wine growing that presently only support less valuable crops, while making some high value wine grapes such as pinot noir more difficult to grow. Changes in climate will affect public health, as patterns of communicable diseases and disease vectors in Oregon change; chronic disease risk factors like ambient pollen concentrations, the prevalence of smoke from forest fires and physical activity patterns are altered; and economic changes threaten communities and put some Oregonians at risk for family violence and suicide." In other words, we're all going to die (and drink bad wine in the process).

Thankfully, the CCIG came up with a plan. It's not an easy one, however. According to the group's calculations, "we must reduce emissions by 42 percent from forecasted business-as-usual levels."

The "Oregon Strategy"—a 2004 report recommending greenhouse gas reductions, which the state legislature adopted last year—dictated a similarly tough goal: Emissions need to drop significantly, to at least 75 percent below 1990 levels, by 2050. Considering that we're currently pumping out emissions at a level that's 22 percent higher than 1990 levels—and we're expecting considerable population growth in the near future—we've got a lot of work to do.

According to the Oregon Department of Energy, transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, accounting for 34 percent of emissions.

Smartly, the CCIG report devotes an entire chapter to transportation and land-use recommendations, urging the state to reduce "vehicle miles traveled." According to the report, "it is the area in which the state can have the most influence." Moreover, "reducing [vehicle miles traveled] is simply the single most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Though the report doesn't specifically address the CRC project, the general recommendations caution against expanding infrastructure—which is exactly what the CRC project, which began before either report was issued, is poised to do.

"Traditionally, improvements in transportation systems have focused on supply, increasing capacity to meet travelers' needs. However, new infrastructure is expensive and may induce demand, locking governments into a spending cycle of adding increasingly more capacity as more drivers take advantage of new facilities."

Opposition Mounts

Last October, Sightline, an environmental think-tank based in Seattle and focused on the Northwest, released a study addressing highway expansions' impact on emissions. Not surprisingly, Sightline found that building more roads increases greenhouse gas emissions, even when improved fuel efficiency of future vehicles is taken into account, and even if the highway expansion project initially relieves congestion (cars that aren't idling in stop-and-go traffic pollute less).

"Sightline assumes that rush-hour traffic will flow more freely after new lanes are opened, and that congestion relief will raise the effective fuel efficiency of vehicles on the roadway," wrote Sightline's Clark Williams-Derry. "However, consistent with academic findings and real-world experience, we also assume that new highway capacity in a metropolitan area will gradually be filled by new trips, and that congestion and stop-and-go driving will gradually increase to approximately the same level experienced prior to the highway expansion."

Applying that logic to the CRC project—which, project staffers say, is bigger than the current bridge thanks to auxiliary lanes that allow for smoother entrances and exits—Williams-Derry points out the potential long-term effects of a bigger bridge. "You're increasing the capacity of the corridor. The end result is that there's going to be more space in the corridor and in that facility for more cars. Over the long haul, any cars that get diverted from the main freeway lanes into the auxiliary lanes, that's going to free up more space for long-distance traffic on the Columbia River Crossing."

And according to Sightline, "Adding one mile of new highway lane will increase CO2 emissions by more than 100,000 tons over 50 years." To put that in context, the average US citizen is currently responsible for 20 tons of CO emissions each year.

Groups like Sightline aren't the only ones raising alarm bells about building more roads. Locally, critics of the big bridge are emerging as the CRC project nears a decision-making point.

Joe Cortright, an economist with Impresa Consulting in Portland, released an economic analysis of the CRC project on February 13. In it, he compared the cost of the bridge project to "80 OHSU aerial trams," which "works out to nearly $2,000 per capita from each of the region's two million residents."

He picks apart the CRC's own numbers, and concludes that the bridge isn't going to solve any traffic problems. Instead, it will exacerbate congestion: "Growth in trips across the Columbia will be 70 percent greater with the bridge than if we don't build the bridge... The presence of larger transportation facilities encourages people to take trips they would otherwise avoid, or re-route."

And that traffic will spill over into the rest of the transportation system, Cortright argues. (Watch out, North and Northeast Portland.) "Presumably, with four or five travel lanes in each direction, there will be no congestion on the bridge. But what about the rest of the traffic system? How do they manage this volume without congestion on the rest of I-5? How do I-5 and North Portland road networks handle the additional 13,900 peak hour trips that will be generated by the new bridge?" Cortright asks.

The CRC's Transportation Planning/Traffic Engineering Team, along with project finance specialists, issued a March 3 memo reviewing Cortright's analysis. The CRC staffers called Cortright's analysis "incorrect," because, for example, he uses numbers from a preliminary 2002 study.

Cortright responds: "I used the newest data I could find on their website when I put it together. They've come up with some other numbers. It doesn't lead me to believe that what I wrote was wrong," he says. "What we know is—and what their data shows—that bridges cause more traffic, and tolls reduce it. It you want to reduce traffic, tolls and transit are the way to do it."

The Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF)—a group of over 90 organizations working for "healthy and sustainable communities" in our region—is pushing for a "climate smart" Columbia River Crossing. The current proposals, according to the CLF, represent an "outdated freeway expansion project that will increase global warming pollution, harm people's health, and undermine our region's vision of a sustainable economy."

Instead, the CLF wants to see a project that "reduces the growth in driving," according to Co-Director Jill Fuglister, who's also a member of the CRC task force. They recently adopted a "Climate Smart" resolution that says "we only support a Columbia River Crossing Project that will reduce the growth of driving in the future."

More Lanes, More Problems

Fortunately, the six local agencies involved in the project on both sides of the river—on this side, that's the City of Portland, Metro, and TriMet—have veto power over the project (Metro votes in April, and Portland's city council votes in May on the preferred alternative). CLF members are hoping to convince one agency to put a stop to the big bridge plan.

As that battle shapes up, local political leaders are gathering information, and beginning to take sides. At the City of Portland, Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams "really wants to hear what the community has to say on it," says his chief of staff. Mayor Tom Potter, according to a spokesperson, "has serious questions about how it's got to this point," but doesn't believe it would be a good idea "to pull back" at this time. Commissioner Dan Saltzman hasn't taken a position yet, and Commissioner Erik Sten will likely have left office by the time the issue hits the city council.

Commissioner Randy Leonard says his position has been consistent: "I would be generally supportive of the project on the condition that it has light rail, pedestrian and bike lanes."

At Metro, Councilor Robert Liberty has "very serious reservations about the project. It shows weaknesses in how we make decisions about transportation. It's a failure in creativity in how to define and address the problem."

He'd prefer to start by tolling, and then build the bike and pedestrian plus transit connection as a second phase.

So far, Liberty is the most outspoken of local leaders, but he says several of his colleagues on the Metro council— which will also consider the project—are "raising concerns."

It's unclear, however, if Liberty's strong views will trickle over to the City of Portland. "There's something basically wrong with the idea that the approach to Portland, which is trying to brand itself as a leader in sustainability, is a 12-lane bridge. How we spend our money says a lot about what kind of place we are, and I think we can do a lot better than this."
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  #323  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2008, 3:05 AM
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Originally Posted by pdxskyline
From what I can tell, Oregon can afford our portion of the bridge.
really? I haven't even heard funding discussed yet.
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  #324  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2008, 8:14 PM
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I hope Pollard (Vancouver's Mayor) ignore those little stores on the main street craps and dream about more of Esther Short types.
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  #325  
Old Posted Mar 13, 2008, 8:55 PM
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Originally Posted by alexjon View Post
Where's PuyoPiyo to tell you guys that Light Rail is a stupid Portland idea and that Vancouver will soon be the regional super power?
Sorry I overlook your post, and um yes?
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  #326  
Old Posted Mar 14, 2008, 8:49 AM
zilfondel zilfondel is offline
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All the cheese in France couldn't save Vantucky.

But seriously, we should just give them what they want - a 22 lane bridge that goes across the Columbia - and be done with it. There's just no way we can win against the drive-thru coffee shop hillbilly crowd.

(sarcasm)

Last edited by zilfondel; Mar 15, 2008 at 6:01 PM.
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  #327  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2008, 1:06 AM
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Portland bristles over no light rail on Interstate 5 bridge


The City Council doesn't much like the idea of a span across the Columbia without provision for rail transit
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian Staff

The Portland City Council made clear Monday that it would be unlikely to support a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River if Vancouver proves unwilling to join the light-rail revolution.

Although they stopped short of calling light rail a "make or break" element of the proposed $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing project, council members underscored strong support for rail lines over buses for mass transit. Several explored the logistics of when Vancouver or Clark County might vote on light-rail money and what might happen if voters reject the idea.

Light rail has been a political flashpoint between Portland and its northern neighbors since 1995, when Clark County voters rejected their part of a light-rail plan by more than a 2-1 ratio. Voters cited uncertainty about cost, alignment across the river and usefulness.

Tax increase, tolls

It appears that next year voters in the C-Tran transit district, covering much of Clark County, will be asked to approve a sales tax increase to cover rail operations on the Washington side.

Even if voters turn it down, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard said the state and federal bridge builders should ensure the structure would accommodate light rail later.

"Let's put the rails into the bridge," Leonard said. "In the long term, we know it's inevitable that it's going to be built."

The topic dominated the council's first public discussion of the Columbia River Crossing, a plan to replace the six-lane I-5 spans with a set of bridges and highway interchanges.

The project could also extend light rail or bus rapid transit service into Vancouver. The bridge is planned to include a toll to help pay its cost and to reduce congestion during rush hour.

A City Council vote on the project won't come until late summer at the earliest. The Portland Planning Commission and the Sustainable Development Commission plan to review the project in coming months and advise the council.
Mayor Tom Potter asked what impact a no vote in Clark County might have on the whole project. Kris Strickler, of the crossing staff, said that if all mass transit is ruled out, it could send highway engineers back for a two-year redo of their studies.

"All the analysis points to that fact that there's no silver bullet," Strickler said. "A highway solution or a high-capacity transit solution on their own won't solve the problems."

Lining up support

City Commissioner Sam Adams, who oversees transportation for the city, guided the staff's presentation. Although Adams has served on a committee advising state highway planners on the project for more than two years, the mayoral candidate left the strong statements to his colleagues. He looked panicked when Leonard joked about "annexing" Vancouver.

"On the Oregon side, most people want the extension of light rail," Adams said. "The city of Vancouver is very supportive of that. The commissioners of Clark County are undecided. That's kind of where we're at."

The goal, Adams said, "is to try to show folks up north that they can enjoy the benefits of a transit-oriented development approach."

Commissioner Erik Sten, who will retire from the council in less than a month, said the city needed strong statements from the Planning Commission about what the project should include.

"Let's face it, the bridge serves Vancouver more than Portland," Sten said.

Later, a spokesman for Potter said the mayor considered light rail absolutely crucial for the project.

Light rail remains a divisive issue in Vancouver. Mayor Royce E. Pollard, a former rail critic, has become a champion, as have other council members. But downtown-area merchants have protested that rail might cut off some shops' driveways and disrupt redevelopment aspirations.

A crossing project consultant told the Portland council that recent polls show deep public support for rail in Vancouver and substantial support in Clark County.

During a 60-day public comment period, state highway officials will ask the public whether it would prefer one of five alternatives: build nothing; build a supplemental bridge alongside the current bridge, with bus rapid transit; build a supplemental bridge with a light-rail line; build a new bridge with bus rapid transit; build a new bridge with light rail.

The comment period will start when the Oregon and Washington highway departments publish a draft environmental impact statement, not due for a couple of months.

Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; dylanrivera@ news.oregonian.com For environment news, go to http://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen

http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/o...950.xml&coll=7
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  #328  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2008, 1:31 AM
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i used to be a strong supporter of this project. every afternoon, thanks to that damn bridge, traffic backs up all the way down I-5 (north), through downtown, to the terwilliger curves. so vancouver commuters aren't the only ones to suffer. but after this, well, fuck them. as far as i'm concerned, let's drop the bridge idea altogether and put MAX down barbur instead. connect it to stupid-ass kruse way so that commuters down there will have no excuse not to use it. and then start a torturous, multi-year pothole repair project in the southbound lanes if I-5, say starting at 7AM every weekday morning (can't pay those union guys OT to work weekends, after all).
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  #329  
Old Posted Mar 19, 2008, 5:08 AM
zilfondel zilfondel is offline
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Quote:
City Commissioner Sam Adams, who oversees transportation for the city, guided the staff's presentation. Although Adams has served on a committee advising state highway planners on the project for more than two years, the mayoral candidate left the strong statements to his colleagues. He looked panicked when Leonard joked about "annexing" Vancouver.
Oh, its good not to be running for mayor.
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  #330  
Old Posted Mar 25, 2008, 3:12 PM
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Growth worries pile up over I-5 bridge project
Some fear the Columbia River Crossing will add to sprawl and pollution
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian

The governors of Oregon and Washington and the U.S. transportation secretary have called fixing the Interstate 5 traffic bottleneck at the Columbia River a top priority for the nation and the Northwest.

The $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing bridge project could unclog congestion that inhibits freight movement, causes a high accident rate and slows mass transit to a crawl.

But in easing I-5 congestion -- and absorbing more traffic -- the region faces thorny questions that could influence growth for decades to come:

Will replacing a six-lane bridge with 12 lanes promote sprawl in Clark County, undermining land-use goals?

Will a bridge with 44,000 more cars a day moving at faster speeds raise the risk of traffic fatalities even as it reduces the number of fender benders?

Will the additional traffic emit more pollution into the air in North Portland and Vancouver, compromising public health or Northwest efforts to curb global warming?

These and other questions make this bridge more than just a bridge.

Engineers from the Oregon and Washington highway departments insist that the project will avoid all pitfalls. They say the Columbia River Crossing would improve safety and rein in sprawl by imposing steep rush-hour tolls and pushing MAX light rail into Clark County.

"It's not just a bridge project, it's not just a highway project, it includes all these other elements," says David Parisi, the lead traffic forecaster for the Columbia River Crossing. "I think people forget that there's going to be these other elements that will . . . reduce auto demand."

But some leaders from Metro Council, the regional planning agency, join Portland officials in arguing that less congestion means easier commutes and more bedroom communities.

"We're building it for rush-hour commuters from Clark County -- that's why this is under discussion," Metro Councilor Robert Liberty says. "Why are they the most important? Why are they different from rush-hour commuters from Washington County or Clackamas County?"

The 12-lane bridge will reduce congestion in North Portland and Vancouver by 2030 below the levels motorists experience today, project forecasters say. Instead of traffic chugging along at less than 30 mph for six hours a day, by 2030 the bridge area would be clogged only 5.5 hours -- but with many more vehicles.

The attack on congestion, planners say, is to ease the passage of freight through the area, which includes the ports of Vancouver and Portland as well as key industrial areas.

Planning for growth

But it is also designed to accommodate expected population growth. The Portland-Vancouver metro area is forecast to grow by 46 percent, to 3 million people, by 2030. Clark County is expected to exceed that: Its population could rise by 65 percent in the same period.

Portland City Council members have said at recent public meetings they fear the consequences of enabling Clark County population growth with a new bridge. It could encourage more people to live in far-flung areas of Clark County, chewing up the landscape and adding car use.

As Metro Council President David Bragdon sees it, the challenge is how to build a bridge "without 100,000 people thinking they can move to Battle Ground."

People buy homes and locate businesses based on the transportation infrastructure nearby, says Joe Cortright, a Portland economist who chairs Gov. Ted Kulongoski's Council of Economic Advisors.

"If we build more capacity there, what we're saying is we want more people to live in Clark County and commute to jobs in Portland," Cortright says. "This is contingent on keeping Clark County barefoot and pregnant economically."

But Cortright suggests another alternative: "It's just as easy to say that more jobs will grow in Clark County, and more of the people who live in Clark County will choose to work in Clark County."

More jobs in area

Bridge planners say they used the economic and population forecasts that planners in Portland and Vancouver agreed on.

From 2005 through 2030, Portland-Vancouver employment will grow by 65 percent -- with Clark County registering a 130 percent growth rate. In 2005, Clark County had 125,000 jobs, or 25 percent of the number Multnomah County had. In 2030, however, Metro planners expect Clark County will have 285,00 jobs, or 40 percent of the number for Multnomah County.

That job growth shows that bridge planners don't assume Clark County grows as a bedroom community to Portland, Parisi says. Clark County has its own urban growth restrictions that are intended to contain sprawl.

Expanding the bridge from six to 12 lanes would still limit the growth of commuting, Parisi says, because the new lanes would be less than a mile long, running from one highway on-ramp to another nearby off-ramp. Such "auxiliary lanes," as they are known, would ease traffic flow only in a five-mile stretch from Columbia Boulevard in North Portland to State Route 500 in Vancouver.

Still, the debate about growth will continue to shape discussion of the bridge.

Some fear more pollution

A 39-member task force of elected officials and community groups asked state highway planners to forecast the air pollution the new 12-lane bridge would generate.

Pollution from more highway traffic shouldn't be allowed to harm asthma sufferers and others, said Jill Fuglister, co-director of the Coalition for a Livable Future, a Portland-based sustainability group.

"Low-income communities are already starting with disparate health outcomes," she said at a task force meeting in January. "The effects have more impact on those communities because they're starting with more health impact."

Bridge planners say the project won't increase auto emissions and, in fact, could help decrease them -- even with 44,000 additional vehicles a day. That's because cars moving faster burn gas more efficiently, and bridge planners say Congress is likely to demand more fuel efficiency from automakers.

Carbon monoxide emissions would fall from 6.8 to 5.0 parts per million at the North Lombard-North Interstate Avenue intersection, bridge planners estimate.

In addition, about 20 percent of trips across the river with the new bridge would be on mass transit.

"You're transferring a fair number of people out of their cars and onto transit," says Jeff Heilman, environmental task lead for the project.

But not everyone in the planning business agrees.

The CRC analysis follows a standard argument of highway planners, says Todd Litman, a transportation economist and planner with the Victoria Transport Research Institute in Canada: Allow cars to go faster, they argue, so the vehicles use less fuel and emit less pollution.

But that doesn't hold in the long term, Litman says.

"Usually it works out that in the short term it reduces emissions and that the benefits disappear in a few years," Litman says. "In the long term it increases emissions."

Safety is a problem on the bridge now.

The accident rate for cars approaching the aging, narrow I-5 bridge is about double the rate of comparable highway sections in the Portland area. Motorists on the short bridge on-ramp from Hayden Island get into accidents at the highest rate of any spot on I-5 in Oregon.

"They don't have room to accelerate or decelerate or weave across the highway," Parisi says.

Death rates an issue

But planners, who say the new bridge will improve public safety, haven't studied how it would affect the rate of fatal accidents. Speed kills: The higher speed traffic over the crossing could generate more fatalities, transportation experts say, and as the project cuts congestion, it could boost the number of fatal accidents.

It's reasonable to expect fatalities to grow, as high-speed traffic grows, Litman says. But most transportation engineers "refuse to recognize" that reality, he says.

The rate of fatalities in the bridge area is relatively low now. About one person per year is killed in auto accidents in the five-mile I-5 bridge area, where 134,000 vehicles pass each day.

Bridge planners say it would be too difficult to forecast the number of traffic fatalities but say they hope to soon estimate the economic impact of fender benders and other accidents in terms of medical bills and lost productivity.

Lumping together efforts to replace obsolete, risky on-ramps with highway expansion makes it seem as if one has to happen for the other to also happen, which is not necessarily so, Litman says.

"They probably could come up with a $250 million project that could make the bridges safer," Litman says. "But instead, they want to do a $4 billion project because they want to expand its capacity and handle more vehicles."

Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; dylanrivera@news.oregonian.com For environment news, go to http://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/orego...480.xml&coll=7
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  #331  
Old Posted Mar 25, 2008, 5:03 PM
deasine deasine is offline
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Isn't a twelve lane bridge too much? I've been through the traffic and it's horrible, but not bad enough for a twelve lane bridge.

Wouldn't a ten lane bridge, two lanes exclusively for light rail, two lanes for HOV (in both directions), and three lanes for regular traffic be adequate.
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  #332  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2008, 9:02 PM
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Just pave over Vancouver. I'm tired of 5-story bathroom break villages breaking up the scenery.
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  #333  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2008, 4:24 AM
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^huh?
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  #334  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2008, 7:45 AM
zilfondel zilfondel is offline
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^ He's from Seattle, he's entitled to say that.
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  #335  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2008, 5:51 PM
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alexjon alexjon is offline
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It seems to me that the main stumbling block in regional development is Vancouver. The people there are constantly acting as though Portland is a burden to them, and they are more than willing to stop plans like extending MAX or paring down an unreasonable roads plan if it means they pay less of the bill and don't have to be more dependent upon Portland.

There wasn't anything of interest last time I went to Vancouver, when, just 6 months prior, there was stuff to do and an actual vibe.

I think it all went downhill when they ripped out the transit mall.
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  #336  
Old Posted Apr 14, 2008, 3:29 PM
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Over at PortlandTransport.org, they have a post up about SmarterBridge.org an anti-CRC group. Hopefully they can get some momentum behind an alternate plan for the bridge.

Since I've recently started reading about Portland (with thoughts of moving there), its been interesting to compare it to me hometown of Milwaukee, WI. They are of comparable populations, but have taken much different approaches to transportation. Milwaukee can't seem to get light rail or BRT off the ground, but has had no problem funding some serious interstate projects. For example:

Marquette Interchange ($810 million):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquette_Interchange

8 Lane Freeway upgrade to Chicago ($1.9 Billion):
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=735802

Anyway, just an interesting (to me, at least) comparison.
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  #337  
Old Posted Apr 17, 2008, 9:14 PM
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Good to see the tide turning. Sad, though, to see Burkholder and Pollard lined up behind it.

Columbia River Crossing builds contention instead of connections
Regional leaders push for more support of the proposed bridge project

POSTED: 06:00 AM PDT Thursday, April 17, 2008
BY TYLER GRAF, DJC

The Portland-to-Vancouver Columbia River Crossing is being promoted by some as a way to improve congestion, but for others, it’s becoming a topic of congested debate.

At a moderated discussion Wednesday, for example, regional leaders – including Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, Metro Commissioner Rex Burkholder and Monica Isbell of Starboard Alliance Company – discussed the future of the Columbia River Crossing, while asking for business-leader support.

“This bridge is about connectivity,” Burkholder said, adding that the Willamette River has 10 bridges, a light rail crossing with another one in the works, in addition to a planned streetcar crossing. By comparison, the Columbia River, with its two bridges and no light rail access, is severely lacking, he said.

But Lynn Rust, an engineer on the bridge project, remains reticent on what the near future holds for the bridge.

“We (continue) to receive a lot of feedback,” Rust told the Daily Journal of Commerce during a recent phone interview. “And the feedback is everything under the sun.”

Joe Cortright, a local economist, is a more vocal opponent of the bridge. He presented his feedback to the Portland Planning Commission last week.

In a 20-page Power Point presentation, made to the commission, Cortright argued that the bridge project is predicated on faulty assumptions. He proposes a phased, pay-as-you-go approach that would toll the existing bridge, fix the rail bridge, perform seismic upgrades to the bridge, modify Hayden Island’s ramps and extend light rail to Clark County.

Cortright has also found a new medium for disseminating his message – a Web site called SmarterBridge.org, with which he is loosely affiliated, and on which he posts his findings.

Among Cortright’s findings: More freight is moving to rail and freight has very little to do with metro economies. Fewer Oregonians are driving, as the price of gas continues to climb upward. And, he says, the region’s 20-year congestion projections are exaggerated.

His assessment comes in stark contrast to the findings of the Columbia River Crossing Task Force, which maintains that the current bridge is unsafe, congested and severely outdated.

Cortright, however, cites a 2005 report from the General Accountability Office which states that travel demand models incorporated into congestion studies predict “unreasonably bad conditions.”

“‘They’re using a sort of lemming model of transportation behavior, in which all the lemmings keep running off the cliff and falling into the ocean,” Cortright said.

Cortright maintains that the current bridge, though old, is not a hazard. He says that seismic upgrades for the existing bridge could be accomplished for a quarter of the cost of building a new bridge.

Still, the congestion models used for the bridge are difficult to review without looking over the environmental impact statement, Cortright says. Tentative plans call for a May release of a draft statement, which Heather Gunderson, a representative for the project, says will be several hundred pages long.

For regional leaders the bridge remains essential to business and environmental interests.

“Environmentally, this will be the right thing to do,” Burkholder, of Metro, said during the Wednesday morning discussion. He added that the bridge will move forward with the region aggressively pursuing federal money. In the ensuing year, Vancouver may be able to obtain $750 million.

“This is about economic vitality,” Pollard, Vancouver’s mayor, said. “If we sit back, then the wrong people will drive this ship.”
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  #338  
Old Posted Apr 18, 2008, 4:55 PM
sirsimon sirsimon is offline
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This whole CRC debacle makes my head spin, so I tend to stay out of it. But, having avoided reading all 17 pages of this thread, allow me the benefit of putting out an uneducated post:

If everyone stresses that the key here is to ease transport of goods up and down the I5 corridor, why not just build a much smaller bridge that only supports trucks and LRT. Have the trucking traffic diverted to this "trucking only" bridge well before the current CRC, and have it merge back into I5 further south. Make the fine for people who use the "trucking bridge" to cross in a car exceedingly stiff.

Perhaps they could allow for carpoolers to use the bridge to.

This seems like it would accomplish the goal of easing trucking on the corridor, reward the carpoolers and light rail users, and leave the single occupancy vehicle crowd in their own world.

If I am way off base, I apologize. I have fever and am doped up on codeine...
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  #339  
Old Posted Apr 29, 2008, 12:47 AM
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I strongly urge everyone to comment on the CRC project right now while they are allowing public comment: feedback@columbiarivercrossing.org
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  #340  
Old Posted May 2, 2008, 3:37 PM
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New I-5 bridge? You decide
Reports touting a toll span, with far less congestion, will help the public choose which way to go
Friday, May 02, 2008
DYLAN RIVERA
The Oregonian

Replacing the decrepit Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River with mass transit lines and new car lanes on a toll bridge would reduce future traffic congestion by two-thirds, from a whopping 15 hours a day to potentially less than five.

That's a key finding in a massive set of reports by transportation professionals in Oregon and Washington to be released today.

Significantly, an intermediate measure -- leaving the current bridge in place but adding supplementary spans containing more lanes, mass transit and bicycle lanes -- would reduce congestion by just one-third, to a better but grinding 11 hours a day.

As Oregon and Washington struggle to decide which kind of bridge to erect, they are required by law to weigh benefits and environmental impacts. Today's reports are designed to help residents and leaders alike decide.

"The information and the public's comments will help us select the preferred alternative to remove a bottleneck hurting the economies of the region, the West Coast and the nation," said Hal Dengerink, chancellor of Washington State University, Vancouver and co-chair of a task force advising on the project.

The reports today on the $4.2 billion Columbia River Crossing will likely foment controversy that could kill it or accelerate its approval. Critics of urban sprawl say the project, in absorbing more vehicles, will create more traffic and expand development northward. And Vancouver residents skeptical of mass transit see light rail as an unwanted encroachment of Portland into southwest Washington.

Yet, the governors of Oregon and Washington and business groups from both sides of the river say the crossing is key to the region's prosperity.

Congestion -- and the stranglehold it places on I-5 in North Portland -- is the driving force behind replacing the aging bridge. So the project touts a balancing act of tolls and mass transit to manage bridge use and curb an unchecked growth in the volume of vehicles, and thus more congestion.

The task force advising the CRC staff is expected to decide among the five options offered by June 24. The formal public comment period ends July 1. City, regional and transit agencies in Portland and Vancouver will vote on the project in July.

Planners say the region must find consensus in the next three months for the project to have its best shot at federal money. They said they hope to apply for it by Aug. 15.

Milestone in debate

Today's reports, called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, are a milestone in finding a solution to the I-5 bridge bottleneck -- the subject of debate for more than a decade. The draft impact statement is required before Congress can include it next year among the nation's top priority transportation projects.

And it requires federal agencies to identify what they believe to be the least environmentally detrimental alternatives, said Dan Rohlf, a law professor and director of the environmental law clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School.

"But there's no requirement that the agency adopt what it believes to be the least environmentally harmful alternative," Rohlf said. "The idea is we have to go into this with our eyes open."

Several environmental and business groups have already taken sides, which may harden as the 850-page report and its 5,000 pages of supporting technical reports undergo scrutiny.

"Folks seem to be entrenched, and they don't have the full picture or don't want to take in data that maybe contrary to what their position may be," said John Osborn, co-director of the Columbia River Crossing.

The Portland Business Alliance has gathered about a dozen business associations, businesses and others into a pro-project coalition that is working on a Web site and other public involvement, said Megan Doern, spokeswoman for the group.

"It's something people feel very strongly about," Doern said. "The CRC task force has done a tremendous job in all the research they've done and the things that they've considered."

Many skeptical

Not everyone agrees.

A loose affiliation of Portland transportation activists and the nonprofit Coalition for a Livable Future have countered Columbia Crossing engineers at public meetings and have started a Web site, www.smarterbridge.org, to publicize their views.

For months, transportation planners have presented slides with findings that are backed up by information released today.

"They could allay our concerns, but I'm skeptical based on what I've seen so far," said Joe Cortright, an economist who has volunteered time to critique the traffic forecasts. "They've kept so much of it concealed, particularly how they came up with these projections that there's going to be this increase in congestion . . . and actually the traffic has gone down in each of the last two years."

Downtown Vancouver business groups have protested the light-rail option, making buttons calling for protection of driveways for a longstanding Dairy Queen restaurant.

Columbia Crossing staff said they have not made a recommendation among the five alternatives they studied, which includes doing nothing. They chose to wait until the 39-member task force that Dengerink co-chairs picks a locally preferred alternative.

Yet, a replacement bridge with light rail has gained tremendous momentum in recent months. In November, at the task force's request, staff disclosed its technical "finding" that a new bridge with light rail meets the project's goals more cost effectively than a supplemental bridge or bus rapid-transit alternatives.

At its January meeting, the task force took an informal vote, which showed overwhelming support for the replacement bridge and light-rail options.

A close look at the environmental statement's data should eliminate fears that the bridge will cause sprawl and undermine land-use goals, Osborn said. While the proposed 12-lane bridge would add more car-handling capacity, tolls and mass transit would prevent sprawl and promote downtown Vancouver, he said.

"What you hear is -- 'big project, urban sprawl' -- that's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night" Osborn said. "Reasonable people should look at both sides of the story and take a look at the data."

Dylan Rivera: 503-221-8532; dylanrivera@news.oregonian.com For environment news, go to oregonlive.com/environment
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/orego...680.xml&coll=7
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