December 20, 2005
Steve Duin Takes on the Eastbank Freeway
In today's Oregonian, Steve Duin bemoans the apparent loss of momentum on doing anything about the Eastbank Freeway and the loss of opportunity for the community.
We're sympathetic to this issue, but what struck us is his passing reference to peak oil: "given the expiration date on our endless supply of oil".
So our question of the day is whether the concept of peak oil has, or is about to, reach a tipping point in public consciousness? If so, how can we leverage this for better transportation policy and choices?
December 20, 2005 10:19 AM
Ross Williams Says:
You now the concept of peak oil has reached a tipping point in some quarters when it is used for a massive investment in a new freeway. I am very sympathetic to Ron Buel's efforts. But I think they got seriously off-course when they committed to replacing I-5 instead of getting rid of it. Peak oil or no peak oil, such a massive project would drain money away from other transportation projects with a lot more benefit.
You aren't going to take the money from the Sunrise Freeway or Highway 217 improvements or from the new I-5 bridge. Its much more likely to come at the expense of street car, light rail and boulevard improvements supported by the alternative transportation community.
A realistic (well maybe) solution to I-5 would be to transform the current freeway into a boulevard in the short term. That would spur development in the area by allowing better regional access from the east side businesses while redirecting a lot of through traffic onto I-405. Incremental improvements could be made from there starting with moving the railroad which is the major barrier in the area right now. Eventually the waterfront area would become valuable for new uses and the major transportation corridors would move to Grand and MLK, 7th and 8th and 11th and 12th.
December 20, 2005 10:26 AM
Chris Smith Says:
OK, I'll bite: how do you turn a limited access freeway into a boulevard? I can't quite get a mental picture :-)
December 20, 2005 10:36 AM
And what IS that expiration date? 200-years-out-fahgedditabouddit, or 80-years-out-science'll-save-us?, as leading celebrity figures have said? Or 30-years-out as Chevron CEO has said? (www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/072805_industry_leadership.shtml)
Or five years away, or THREE years away, as Peak Oil researchers are showing? (www.peakoil.net)
Expiration means people die. No oil means hundreds of MILLIONS of people die. That means you. That means me. That means our posterity -- read: all our families and children. Die.
From starvation, mostly. Three years. Unless it's five. What, thirty makes a difference? That's not time enough to beat our Detroit Car Culture infrastructure into farming implements, as growing our own food -- agrarian subsistence living -- pretty much becomes job #1. In a future, perhaps before the next national balloting three years from now, where there are those who do farm, and those who used to be alive.
Sort of gives new meaning to Urban Growth Boundary -- 'the distance to food.'
Now, on topic, being: 'how to leverage this (oil expiration) for better policy transportation and choices.' That has to be so wide on the Pathetic Scale it sits next to Nero fiddling over a burning city.
Uh, the matter is No Oil -- except what political corporations horde, and deny from all humankind with totalitarian U.S. militarism. Where oil denied is starvation death assured. Sheesh, a person, or Steve Duin, would'a thunk somebody would'a told us. North America is going to look After Oil like it did for millenniums Before Oil, various self-sufficient tribes scattered across the land. Except we'll have electricity -- anyone who makes their own at home, that is. The obvious immediate action needed is to ordain humanity's dominion (United Nations) over all the life-sustaining resources on Earth: air, water, land, etc., and Crude Oil, however much remains. The idea that someone or a corporate entity can 'own land with oil on it and do whatever they choose with that land, heedless of humankind's common survival,' is a quaint notion of a past, ignorant time. The obvious action for humankind is what you might call Global Socialism of the means of production -- not socialistic 'control,' rather, socialistic 'cooperation and coordination.'
Basically what U.S. militarism has aimed to eradicate -- common social sense, i.e., humanity, for 50 or 100 years now. Militarism, (biblical 'swords'), is foolishly barbaric and unnecessary, an unviable, intolerable expense; it has started every war, killed every human war caualty, since it came into its Oil Age manifestation. Today, Dept.of Defense pre-emption consumes half of the daily U.S. oil consumption of 20 million barrels. And "secures the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity" NOTHING. Bullets cannot bring survival, we see now. Ballots do bring survival. Vote for humankind.
Maybe we can get back to "transportation policy" next century ...
December 20, 2005 11:00 AM
Chris Smith Says:
So I've read Kunstler as well, but I'm not quite so pessimistic about peak oil. I tend to frame it as a behavior question - we can either acknowledge it and do something about it, via conservation and using the remaining stocks of petroleum to help switch to more sustainable sources, OR we can ignore it and wind up with the kind of future Kunstler outlines.
My question is how can use the 'tipping point' that might be occuring to move us into the first path...
December 20, 2005 11:51 AM
I think humans tend to be pretty smart - especially in these information days - to be able to think their way out of a wet paper bag.
This is one instance that I think the market will naturally lead to solutions to overuse of oil. Don't forget, it was only 100 years ago when we weren't using oil to get around. People in other countries - africa, for instance - get most of their goods & services without most people driving their cars.
"Peak Oil" is going to dramatically increase the cost of gas, but its not like all the gas in the world suddenly vanishes - it just means we have consumed 50% of the readily accessible deposits. Then it gets more expensive, and people will naturally start using less cause it costs more. That doesn't mean everyone dies.
Well, maybe if electricity became too expensive to run A/C in the southern US all year round, people might die cause they live in poorly designed buildings that bake them inside out, but thats a different story.
December 20, 2005 12:09 PM
Ross Williams Says:
If we are talking about the section between where the Marquam Bridget touches down and the Rose Quarter, I suppose you start by reducing the speed limit to 35, narrrowing the lanes, adding bike lanes and sidewalks and connecting Stark and other streets that are at grade, or nearly at grade, with the freeway. You remove the fences and create a green strip between the "parkway" and water street. Then you add some planting strips to create increase tree canopy to capture rain and reduce runoff.
You eliminate the current spaghetti of ramps at Morrison and create connections for streets that aren't at grade along the lines of those to MLK.
There are probably dozens of other things you can do. That would make that stretch a mixed transporation facility and an asset to spur new development integrated with the waterfront.
December 20, 2005 1:05 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
The land values under and adjacent to I-5 along the eastbank will be huge once the freeway is gone. ODOT can recoup some of the costs just by selling that land to developers.
Currently I-405 has two through lanes, I-5 has two and I-205 has two or three...not sure. Add a through lane each way to I-405...I think the cut is wide enough... and to I-205. We remove I-5 altogether with no net loss of through lanes for in town and bypass traffic. I-405 becomes I-5.
You still have to deal with the UPRR mainline, but Jim Howell has worked out in detail a tunnel arrangement that's within RR specs. Also, replace the Marquam with an arterial/lightrail bridge; it would provide better connections than the existing freeway does for local trips.
My tunnel proposal for the Columbia River Crossing also includes the conversion of the old bridges and the freeway between Columbia Blvd and Mill Plain Blvd into boulevard type arterials. I am sure it is something we can learn to do; it might well increase the thru-put of the facility as well.
December 20, 2005 2:09 PM
Quote: "Also, replace the Marquam with an arterial/lightrail bridge..."
With a broad (30') pedestrian/bike mixed-use planted pathway on the bridge!
December 20, 2005 2:13 PM
joe adamski Says:
I attended a presentation by Gordon Price ( i think thats his name..) several years ago. Mr Price was a developer/politico in Vancouver BC. Vancouver has no freeway system as a result of being the last in line for freeway building, yet has developed a multi route set of arterials that obviate the need for a conventional freeway and all attendant problems that they cause.For Vancouver,it was a happy accident. Losing I5 altogether may be Portlands salvation
December 20, 2005 4:47 PM
Exactly Joe. Remove I5 and don't add capacity to other freeways. Sell all that empty land to developers and recoup some money for poor ODOT. Traffic will be nightmarish at first, but soon people will learn to alter their habits and traffic will return to normal.
What people don't understand is that traffic is only as bad as people will put up with, whether we have 10 lanes of congestion or just 4. I like to put the question as "how many lanes of congestion do you want?" Read Jane Jacobs on automobile attrition. Just make sure that we provide transportation alternatives through that corridor, that means greatly increased bus service, new light rail projects, streetcar projects (central east side, Lake Oswego), capacity for bikes and pedestrians, as well as freight rail.
A boulevard is not just a roadway. It is an urban device to connect two or more special points (think Champs Elysees, Paris) and would require blocks of buildings (high density 5-7 stories) lining it tying into the existing block structure. I'm not sure that's appropriate here. Of course I'd love to see the proposal...
December 20, 2005 5:23 PM
Ron Swaren Says:
There are a lot of other projects that deserve the funds that would go to removing the I-5. I'm sure the Central Eastside Council would love having it gone so they can be a mirror image of west side. But what does that do for other Portlanders?
December 20, 2005 11:15 PM
It seems like the increase in tax revenue in the affected area alone would warrant such investment.
December 21, 2005 2:51 AM
Could be a model for the nation. Although there are those who would fight it tooth and nail. If Global Oil Peak occurs soon, the massive investment in more highways that some want will be unused. Turns out that the plan to remove the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle will only replace the existing capacity, will not add any more capacity. I think that it was a big mistake to have dug the trench that I-5 is in through Downtown Seattle, as it divided a neighborhood with a mess of on and off ramps and a noisy highway. One architecht pushed for a lid, Victor Steinbreuck, but only got Freeway Park. The Lid should have been built all the way from Mercer St to James St. In fact, it was seeing Interstate 5's impact on Downtown Seattle, is what drove Vancouver B.C's Mayor to say "Not in my city".( BC Provincial Highway 99 is Interstate 5 north of the 49th. )
December 21, 2005 11:11 AM
Perhaps the new Octavia Blvd that replaced the old Central Freeway in SF is a model?
December 21, 2005 2:02 PM
I guess it would be, seems the 1989 Earthquake may have forced a change in priorities and Neighborhood Opinion in San Francisco. The Embarcadero Freeway was the first to go.
December 21, 2005 4:20 PM
Ross Williams Says:
Let me be clear - I used boulevard in a very broad sense. My point was to transform the corridor with the current roadway largely in place rather than investing billions of dollars in a tunnel to replace it.
If you extend the concept north you could create a grand boulevard from Portland to Vancouver. I5 has a very broad right-of-way that could be an community asset. Forest the sides right down to the roadway, but a multi-use path up the middle and buildings at some of the streets to create connections between the boulevard and street grades. You would have to reduce speeds - people don't drive 55 mph with trees right next to the road. But that would also have some benefits.
I think if we talked about what else could we do with that space, we would understand how much the freeways are costing us in lost opportunities. Not just on the east bank, but throughout the city.
December 22, 2005 9:37 AM
Lenny Anderson Says:
Removal of the Embarcadero Freeway in SF was offical city policy before the earthquake came to help things along. Since it was a CalTrans facility, however, it would still be there had not the earthquake happened.
The boulevard that replaced the freeway handles all modes...vehicles, bikes, peds and transit. That should be our default in Portland as well.
December 23, 2005 10:17 PM
Ray Whitford Says:
I'm not against boulevards but changing I5 on the Eastbank to a half mile boulevard and moving the interstate demand to the I405 asset (even if you expanded it to eight lanes which can't be done without a wider footprint) is a non-starter.
I84 westbound, I5 southbound, and I5 North bound will be effected by the the back ups at the one or two lights you set up. We have a past experience with this type of arrangement. Hwy 217 years ago had lights at Denney and Allen Boulevards. It wasn't pretty for anyone then and the state has since acknowledged that the design even now isn't functioning properly.
We need safe (emergency shoulders), limited number of lanes (three through lanes at all times), limited access points with toll booths, and go above or below grade when its justified.
Portland will not move forward until that freeway section; that freight rail line; and the lack of high speed rail through the city is combined into one cohesive vision and decision process. We have been spinning our wheel for ten years now (reminds me of the lack of cohesive in my political party, no single vision, just go to a anti-Iraq War protest and you see the issue).
The more time without a vision and a decision the more expense that problem will be to solve. If the USA federal government defaults on it debt to the Orient and European nations, getting any money for Washington DC will be impossible. Then the updates required on the Eastbank will be paid for only by us.
If this happens and Oregon decides that changes are required on the Eastbank, the job (costs) will take 10 years. No other projects in Oregon will be funded during that 10 year period. Plus gas taxes would be increased (this could happen anyway after the latest studies show our lack of funds for the current required updates).
Right now, we have bridges that traverse the Willamette River. When the earthquake hits, as predicted, will any of the bridges be functional? Wouldn't it make some sense to have one tunnel crossing to maintain at least one connection? Couldn't this logic also be applied to the Columbia River Crossing?
I guess that I'm just trying to move beyond thinking of only vehicles and remind everyone of what transportation assets do for a community (jobs, safety, connectivity during all situations, global asset).
Great cities are at transportation hubs and take advantages of those blessings (e.g., Cairo and the Nile, Baghdad and the Golden Arch, Istanbul and the Bosporous, Moscow and roads, Venice and marine trade, Chicago and the railroad, Miami and the cruise liner). The first four are capital cities and the second three are known around the world.
December 24, 2005 10:12 PM
Ron Swaren Says:
I did a little digging into the question of whether the UP rail line would be moved. Tom Markgraf, in Blumenauers office, maintains so; however, I believe that is wishful thinking, because no one else has heard of it. Have you? This would be critical to the entire Eastbank renewal strategy, since I am sure they would not want a freight train running right through this new downtown. Even if there were some other route and place for switching, as some have suggested for the Troutdale area, the present route makes a necessary connection to Swan Island. I suppose all industry could be located to North Portland, or, the rail could go underground. Are there other possibilities?
I see another posssibility--while not as streamlined as the corridor you envision--and that would be to develop what is called the "West Arterial Route", i.e. the path that the rail now takes northward from the Amtrak Station. There is a group in St. Johns advocating for a large multimodal bridge, replacing the Columbia RR crossing. This would get some trucks off the I-5 (ones going out to terminal 5 and 6) and they also want to continue N. Columbia Bv. to Hwy. 30. This could also provide an alternative route between areas which will see fast-paced development; West Vancouver and Northwest Portland. Riverview property in Portland (and Vancouver)will become ever more desirable, so I can see businesses along Front Ave. selling out to condo developers.
Regarding bridges in earthquakes: the collapses in the Bay Area were heavy concrete structures. Portland bridges which are largely steel, with minimal concreted surfaces, should fare better, but bridges like the Marquam and Fremont could fail. Of course, if a Richter 9 hit all at once, instead of a series of smaller quakes, all bets are off.
We did have some discussion of whether the I-405 route could accomodate traffic now on the I-5. Possibly with widening or two levels. I guess Yeon could take some traffic to the West Arterial, if it was built. I think Portlanders are balking at big ticket projects.
You mention three elements to a modern high speed corridor but aren't there more pieces in that puzzle, such as continuing to facilitate industry or age old agreeements with rail lines?
December 25, 2005 4:20 AM
Here is an editorial for one of our newspapers up here, written by the local Sierra Club, about the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct up here. Wether it is a tunnel or another elevated highway, it is still a freeway going to be built.
Which Union Pacific route is to be relocated, the old UP route to points east and Idaho linking up with the Overland ROute(original Transcon) in Utah? or the ex-Southern Pacific route headed to points south and California?(Just wondering)
December 26, 2005 1:03 PM
Ray Whitford Says:
Ron, I agree that the reengineering of the freight train line is wishful thinking but until it happens, all the other steps fall flat. I would suggest a underground alignment for both a freight and passenger line since if we just move the freight line underground the other line then stays at street level or costs are entailed for an elevated passenger rail line (nicer for the views but very expensive). The second underground line for HS Rail can wait for the rest of the East Side alignment to be done (most likely decades down the road the way this country supports HS Rail). What this can do for us is separate the freight traffic from Amtrak service in that area for now (three to five runs) and shouldn't effect development of the riverfront during this start up time frame.
Thank you for asking our congressional staff on this and no I haven't heard any responses that makes me believe that a plan is in the works.
But your inquire to Mr. Blumenauers office is encourageing and tells me that this process for improving all forms of transit in the central city is important to a few people who may actually get a study of this phased solution started.
If they (Congress) agree that for America we have a major transportation problem at Portland for all modes of transit between Canada and Mexico then maybe we can bring it up for major federal funding (since the Feds and the state have ignored Portland for so long).
(I believe that is wishful thinking, because no one else has heard of it. Have you?)
No, but if some of us keep up the comments and have the longevity to ask for solutions, maybe others will see all the benefits that some of us have already envisioned. (This would be critical to the entire Eastbank renewal strategy, since I am sure they would not want a freight train running right through this new downtown.) Agreed and to the point that the freight line question needs to be solved first. (Even if there were some other route and place for switching, as some have suggested for the Troutdale area, the present route makes a necessary connection to Swan Island.) I do believe the Port of Portland will be developing the Troutdale switching yard because they see the development possibilities at the current yards (marine or residential/commerical). Keeping the rail spur for Swan Island helpfully is retained. Unless as you say they are thinking about eventual moves to Hayden Island for the Swan Island operations, but I doubt this.
(I suppose all industry could be located to North Portland, or, the rail could go underground. Are there other possibilities?) Underground is my preferred alignment.
(I see another posssibility--while not as streamlined as the corridor you envision--and that would be to develop what is called the "West Arterial Route", i.e. the path that the rail now takes northward from the Amtrak Station. There is a group in St. Johns advocating for a large multimodal bridge, replacing the Columbia RR crossing. This would get some trucks off the I-5 (ones going out to terminal 5 and 6) and they also want to continue N. Columbia Bv. to Hwy. 30. This could also provide an alternative route between areas which will see fast-paced development; West Vancouver and Northwest Portland. Riverview property in Portland (and Vancouver)will become ever more desirable, so I can see businesses along Front Ave. selling out to condo developers.) I don't see this working as well as updating the current crossing (for safety reasons/emergency shoulders, for great downtown Vancouver connection to Light Rail; for my hope for High Speed Rail (possible stop at Vancouver Central) down the road; possible addition lanes down the road). A more localized bridge to support the two ports makes some sense, but I see that being the last span to be built.
1. Create the CRC suspension bridge asset (cars/trucks) in the ten year time frame.
2. Rebuild the current west I5 Bridge for Light Rail; foot/bike traffic; tolled access to Hayden Island for Washington in the fifteen year time frame.
3. Rebuild the current east I5 Bridge for High Speed Rail in the twenty year time frame. This requires a separate HSR Corridor along I5 in North Portland and the move to the Eastside of the train station (thus a twenty year window). A engineer for CRC at the Jantzen Beach Mall Public Open House saw the safety feature that having the HSR on the separate bridge will be safer (no one can jump from the west span over to the east span).
4. Build the third toll bridge in West Vancouver to met up with Hwy 30 at Cornelius Pass Road without any local access to Sauvie Island. This bridge is only needed if personnel transportation is still in high demand (peak oil and all).
5. Build the fourth toll bridge at the two ports with access to cars if they pay the major toll and make the trucks pay less or nothing. Same issue as No. 4 in required to peak oil concerns.
(Regarding bridges in earthquakes: the collapses in the Bay Area were heavy concrete structures. Portland bridges which are largely steel, with minimal concreted surfaces, should fare better, but bridges like the Marquam and Fremont could fail. Of course, if a Richter 9 hit all at once, instead of a series of smaller quakes, all bets are off.) I would think the Califorina bridge design and superstructure would be able to handle earthquakes better then our current Oregon designs. Yes our coastal bridges and alot of the Portland bridges use steel as their span members (but Cal. bridges use steel for their spans too). Once steel is under stress and reaches its point of fracture (or stress point), all the local bridges will fail. As you said, all bets will be off in a quake close to 9.0.
(We did have some discussion of whether the I-405 route could accomodate traffic now on the I-5. Possibly with widening or two levels. I guess Yeon could take some traffic to the West Arterial, if it was built. I think Portlanders are balking at big ticket projects.) Cappping any of the freeways is 100 years out, in my opinion. I believe that if Portlanders see value (no jobs, no schools, and no health care) and the reasoning for a project they would support it. There is always the initial gut reaction which is expected.
(You mention three elements to a modern high speed corridor but aren't there more pieces in that puzzle, such as continuing to facilitate industry or age old agreeements with rail lines?) This is very true and one thing I believe the railroads would support is for Oregon to work to separate lines where they are justified. At some point, High Speed Rail (using electric motors) and diesel locomotives and new electric motor freight lines will be moving more and more freight (efficency reasons) and smaller diesel/electric trucks will move the commodities from the many smaller distribution centers.
Note that the latest state transportation plan mentions adding more freight train capacity (second line?) to the Califorina border. What (in my dreams!) if the second line was electified and could thus handle HSR and freight.
January 5, 2006 3:28 PM
Lenny Anderson Says:
I was involved with Ernie Bonner, George Crandell and Ron Buel in discussing what to do about the east bank freeway.
It became clear that there was no point in doing anything, unless you did something about the UP line as well.
Jim Howell, another regular at these gatherings,
did some work that got the RR below grade from Powell to up past the Rose Quarter, keeping to the grade restrictions (1%), etc. I recall a third track for passenger in there too.
The starting point for the removal of the eastbank freeway is that 1. everyone recognized at the time it was built that putting the freeway there was a big mistake. 2. the land under the freeway, next to the river across from downtown, is probably the most valuable real estate in the entire state.
I-405 currently has two through lanes, and it looks to this layman that a third could be accommodated in the existing trench. The other lanes are auxilary lanes that come and go.