It’s All in How You Frame the Question: Columbia Crossing Open House

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I attended the Columbia River Crossing open house on Saturday (Oct 22, 2005). For those who may be interested, there are two more open houses scheduled on October 25th and 27th (details).

My first impression was that the sign you first encounter framed the question as one of congestion (“What’s Your Opinion of I-5 Congestion”) and that I had never seen congestion celebrated with balloons before!

With that framing, it seems pretty hard to get to a conclusion other than “let’s widen the I-5 bridge.” This is classic “predict and provide” thinking.

If we started with “what’s the best way to move people and goods across the river?” I wonder if we might get to a different answer?

I arrived about an hour after the event started, and it appeared that the rail advocates may have been there in numbers before I got there based on the comment charts. Lots of references to MAX and commuter rail.

Staffers from WDOT, ODOT and their consultants were out in force with very smart matching polo shirts (it was a little Stepfordish actually).

The project is now entering the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) phase, which is the planning effort required to select a “locally preferred alternative” prior to applying for federal funds.

My personally preferred alternative is not on the main list of options being studied. I’d like consideration of an arterial bridge with light rail, rather than an expansion of the freeway. This would help move people and goods and services, but not necessarily a lot more passenger cars.

Just as the Willamette has 2 freeway bridges and several arterial bridges (Broadway, Morrison, Hawthorne, Ross Island), isn’t it time the Columbia got an arterial bridge designed to move traffic between the districts immediately on each side of the river? Why do we force relatively short trips onto the freeway?

You can follow the project at its official web site http://columbiarivercrossing.org/.

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