Oregonian on CRC: It’s for the Freight

Apparently funding the Columbia River Crossing is high up on the Oregonian’s list of resolutions for the 2012.

Their number one argument is freight and a linkage to jobs:

No, the first reason we need a new bridge is to safeguard our own economic health and assure growth — and to create thousands of new family-wage jobs for years to come. Prosperity is at stake. And no public project can help to jump-start prosperity faster than construction of the $3 billion-plus Columbia River Crossing.

Our hobbled I-5 bridge is at the center of a transportation and trading system that supports one in every five jobs in Oregon. Freight industries using the bridge support an estimated 130,000 jobs at warehouses and distribution centers near the ports of Portland and Vancouver. Truck freight valued at an estimated $40 billion crosses the river every year.

Yet as trucks are slowed, scheduled to less congested off-hours or rerouted around the bridge, ripples of costly delay often are sent through a chain of production and shipping here, domestically and even internationally. This hurts Oregon employers, workers and their families — and over time could make competitor states look like more promising places to do business. If we let our transportation system — comprising roads, rail, river and air facilities — become decrepit and cause delays, we’ll threaten our own fortunes.

This conveniently ignores two facts:

  1. By the project’s own numbers, peak hour congestion delays are only trimmed by a few minutes

  2. The vast majority of the investment in the CRC will go to the benefit of private single-occupany passenger vehicles

If freight is our real concern, then there are many much more cost-effective projects across the region that could benefit freight movement.

19 Comments

19 Responses to Oregonian on CRC: It’s for the Freight

  1. John Reinhold
    January 3, 2012 at 9:03 am Link

    Take one of the existing I5 lanes stretching from I405 to SR500, repaint the lines – add signs and markings “FREIGHT or COMMERCIAL VEHICLES ONLY”.

    Problem solved, cost only a few thousand dollars and some enforcement by the state police.

    That is, of course, we really were concerned about freight in the first place…

  2. Billb
    January 3, 2012 at 9:44 am Link

    What John says , plus put a toll on it ,
    those that don’t want to pay
    can use the regular lanes….

  3. Chris I
    January 3, 2012 at 10:42 am Link

    Or a $500,000 local access, freight, transit bridge from Marine Drive to Vancouver?

    The biggest enemy of freight mobility in our region is the SOV commuter.

  4. Lenny Anderson
    January 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm Link

    The first CRC project was the Delta/Lombard widening of I-5, completed last year. Prior to this modest $100M effort, I-5 southbound narrowed to 2 lanes and returned to 3 lanes with an “add lane” off Columbia Blvd. For the nearly 25 years I have worked on Swan Island that narrowing was Clark county auto commuters biggest beef. Ironically, its elimination replaced the add lane off the busiest freight arterial in the region with merge lane. So much for helping move freight.
    Claiming that the CRC is a freight project at best a misleading; its just another piece of misinformation from the CRC propaganda department. The obstacle to moving freight in the peak hours is too many commuters alone in their cars.

  5. Allan
    January 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm Link

    The O’s article has alot of reasonable arguments against the CRC in the comments. Interesting

  6. ChrisL
    January 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm Link

    “Our hobbled I-5 bridge is at the center of a transportation and trading system…” Yet the CRC “planning” does not look at the bridge in terms of that system, and is mostly unrelated to either Metro or City of Portland transport plans (which could do with being coordinated better with one another as well).

    It does not consider knock-on effects of proposed bridge changes to that system. This includes the EPA’s EIS which is restricted by law to the bridgehead area, though many environmental and pollution-related health consequences will be caused by increased congestion further away.

    In some recent trips to and from Vancouver it appeared to me that there was relatively little congestion at the I-5 bridge itself. It seemed that the main congestion issues arose from I-5 interactions with subsidiary road systems, around the Morrison Bridge-99E/ Rose Quarter/ I-84 nexi, the interchanges related to N & NE Portland industrial and warehouse districts, and on the Vancouver side. The comments here tend to confirm that impression.

    The implication again is for a need to look at the whole system, not just the bridgehead.

  7. Jeff F
    January 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm Link

    If freight was the real consideration, we’d be much better off spending money repairing our existing infrastructure throughout the state.

  8. zefwagner
    January 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm Link

    I really like the idea of a separate light rail/bus/freight bridge. That makes way more sense and would be a lot less expensive.

  9. zefwagner
    January 3, 2012 at 4:21 pm Link

    I really like the idea of a separate light rail/bus/freight bridge. That makes way more sense and would be a lot less expensive.

  10. ChrisL
    January 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm Link

    “Our hobbled I-5 bridge is at the center of a transportation and trading system…” Yet the CRC “planning” does not look at the bridge in terms of that system, and is mostly unrelated to either Metro or City of Portland transport plans (which could do with being coordinated better with one another as well).

    It does not consider knock-on effects of proposed bridge changes to that system. This includes the EPA’s EIS which is restricted by law to the bridgehead area, though many environmental and pollution-related health consequences will be caused by increased congestion further away.

    In some recent trips to and from Vancouver it appeared to me that there was relatively little congestion at the I-5 bridge itself. It seemed that the main congestion issues arose from I-5 interactions with subsidiary road systems, around the Morrison Bridge-99E/ Rose Quarter/ I-84 nexi, the interchanges related to N & NE Portland industrial and warehouse districts, and on the Vancouver side. The comments here tend to confirm that impression.

    The implication again is for a need to look at the whole system, not just the bridgehead.

  11. ChrisL
    January 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm Link

    “Our hobbled I-5 bridge is at the center of a transportation and trading system…” Yet the CRC “planning” does not look at the bridge in terms of that system, and is mostly unrelated to either Metro or City of Portland transport plans (which could do with being coordinated better with one another as well).

    It does not consider knock-on effects of proposed bridge changes to that system. This includes the EPA’s EIS which is restricted by law to the bridgehead area, though many environmental and pollution-related health consequences will be caused by increased congestion further away.

    In some recent trips to and from Vancouver it appeared to me that there was relatively little congestion at the I-5 bridge itself. It seemed that the main congestion issues arose from I-5 interactions with subsidiary road systems, around the Morrison Bridge-99E/ Rose Quarter/ I-84 nexi, the interchanges related to N & NE Portland industrial and warehouse districts, and on the Vancouver side. The comments here tend to confirm that impression.

    The implication again is for a need to look at the whole system, not just the bridgehead.

  12. Rob
    January 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm Link

    Perhaps Portland Transport has previously written about the CRC freight play. It actually does have a strong freight value. The design makes the Marine Drive/ Columbia Blvd interchange much more tractor trailer safe. It adds gradual ramps for Hayden, which has a significant plot owned by the Port, for a future port. Likewise the 14, Mill Plain and 4th Plain interchanges serve the Port of Vancouver and Washington shipping. Not sure why the SR500 interchange needs rebulding, unless it is to even out interchange costs on both sides of the river – the Oregon interchange complex is very expensive.

    Yes the planning has been too slow and expensive. Yes it has had ample public input, earlier would have been better. But it’s impossible to design a project of this scale by committee, and you are never going to please all the people all the time. It’s also highly unlikely that federal funding or the Northwest committee influence is going to be there at all in the next congress, just one year from now.

    Portland Transport analysis is great, and its knowledgeable community likewise, much more than the newspaper, but it’s time to move on and focus elsewhere.

  13. Wells
    January 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm Link

    The CRC committee claim in the recent Notice of Availability letter, “The CRC project is focused on improving safety and reducing congestion…” is a lie.

    The Hayden Island Spagetti ramp interchange is FAR more dangerously accident prone than the current ramp arrangement or the Concept#1 Off-island Access option. The criminally devised interchange design also ‘congests’ truck and car traffic at the ramp access; exiting traffic is forced to navigate difficult interaction with traffic entering I-5.

    Oh well, people die. Might as well send them off in catastrophic rear-end collisions on Hayden Island off-ramps. What fun for automobile dealers who tally up replacement sales for car-addicted victims.

    Maybe Jesus will come back & send all the non-christians to hell while the holier than thou car-driving christian conservatives are left behind to enjoy less congested freeways.

  14. Wells
    January 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm Link

    The CRC committee claim in the recent Notice of Availability letter, “The CRC project is focused on improving safety and reducing congestion…” is a lie.

    The Hayden Island Spagetti ramp interchange is FAR more dangerously accident prone than the current ramp arrangement or the Concept#1 Off-island Access option. The criminally devised interchange design also ‘congests’ truck and car traffic at the ramp access; exiting traffic is forced to navigate difficult interaction with traffic entering I-5.

    Oh well, people die. Might as well send them off in catastrophic rear-end collisions on Hayden Island off-ramps. What fun for automobile dealers who tally up replacement sales for car-addicted victims.

    Maybe Jesus will come back & send all the non-christians to hell while the holier than thou car-driving christian conservatives are left behind to enjoy less congested freeways.

  15. Douglas K.
    January 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm Link

    “Portland Transport analysis is great, and its knowledgeable community likewise, much more than the newspaper, but it’s time to move on and focus elsewhere.”

    No, the time to move on and focus elsewhere will be when this bloated, overpriced monstrosity is dead, and when ground finally has been broken on one of the more affordable and sensible alternatives that the current CRC bureaucracy refused to even consider during the sham “public process” that got us here.

  16. EngineerScotty
    January 3, 2012 at 11:43 pm Link

    Portland Transport covered the freight issue last year here. Many design elements of the CRC will improve things for freight, but improvement will be limited if the new highway is simply clogged with more cars.

  17. Lenny Anderson
    January 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link

    One might check what kind of freight moves out of Port of Portland’s T-6 off Marine Drive. Outbound containers are filled with air, wheat straw and frozen french fies in, more or less that order. Portland handles 1% of west coast containers, a number which is expected to go down with the wider Panama canal. We need a $1B interchange for that?

  18. Spencer Boomhower
    January 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link

    In the article it says,

    “Truck freight valued at an estimated $40 billion crosses the river every year. ”

    Does this mean… Anything at all? I get what they’re implying, that somehow this 40 billion number makes the “$3 billion-plus” (or even 10 billion-plus) CRC pricetag totally worth it. But what does the region really get out of that $40 billion? It’s not like the region exacts a levy on all freight passing through it, and a substantial amount of that freight could be doing just that: using this impressive piece of infrastructure to zip through our urban centers with as little contact with those centers as possible.

    And it’s not like the freight can’t get through, even with what is some pretty bad daily commuter congestion. It’s just slower certain times of day, in one direction or the other.

    So the more meaningful value would be a percentage of a percentage: the fraction of that $40B that actually has some interaction with the region, and the degree to which it is slowed down. Is there any means of calculating that?

  19. Lenny Anderson
    January 4, 2012 at 4:28 pm Link

    A couple of data points that I recall from my days on the Governors’ I-5 Task Force, which BTW did NOT gather one piece of data on freight movement. Yes, Metro admitted as much in public testimony on the “Trade Partnership’s” report.
    Here are few general points. Freight represents less than 10% of all vehicles on I-5…not sure if this is all day or just peak hours. Total week day peak hour congestion in both directions is about 5 hours or less than 10% based on bi-directional 24/7 operation.
    50% of delay is due to events…stalls, folks running out of gas, minor fender benders.
    Last as Joe Cortright has pointed out, vehicle trips over the two bridges has gone down in the last few years.
    My guess is most container exports from our region go by rail out of Portland to Seattle/Tacoma which offer much more frequent service. High tech exports go by way of PDX air freight. Any logistics person worth a damn knows not to send a load out onto I-5 northbound at 3pm. And as Charlie Hales once noted to me, when you see trucks carrying raw logs flying up I-5 thru Portland you know things just are not that bad.
    The Oregonian (and members of PBOT’s so called Freight Committee) know that you can’t sell a freeway project these days by pleading the plight of the commuter alone in their car, so these freeway capacity advocates talk about freight. But as everyone knows the obstacle to moving freight in the peak hours is too many commuters alone in their cars. We need more transit, more bike facilities and more HOV lanes.

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