CRC Week: Open Thread

I’m about to close comments on the Columbia River Crossing Week posts, so I can bundle them up and submit them for the record. If you’d like to keep discussing the items, do so here.

4 responses to “CRC Week: Open Thread”

  1. (I might have submitted these comments on commuter rail earlier)

    Commuter rail operating on existing regional rail tracks would greatly improve public transit service in the Bridge Influence Area. The stated claim that it would be infeasible to integrate with the existing bus and rail network is absurd. Throughout the world, commuter rail stations become hubs for local transit systems allowing seamless access to and from destinations far beyond the train stations which are not just park and ride lots.

    We acknowledge that commuter rail was not recommended in the “I-5 Rail Capacity Study” (Feb. 2003). This conclusion was based on a cursory commuter rail analysis done by ODOT of only one rather ambitious commuter rail scenario, which assumed that the freight rail infrastructure in the Influence Area would experience only modest incremental upgrades. A more conservative phased development of commuter rail, combined with a more aggressive freight rail infrastructure improvement plan, was never studied or vetted.

    For example, peak hour commuter rail service between Ridgefield and Union Station in the Amtrak corridor is feasible if combined with the incremental improvements and grade separation of the UPRR and BNSF rail lines at N. Portland Junction recommended in the Rail Capacity Report. Such rail infrastructure improvements are practical to accomplish within the time frame of the I-5 project, especially now that there is growing cooperation between the Class I railroads and state and local governments to share in the cost of rail improvements.

  2. Jim,

    Since you are saying that commuter rail can work in the BN corridor I would like to seriously ask what would be wrong with having the Multimodal bridge there? It would not be so far out of the way to run Interstate MAX over to that crossing, rather than at I-5, since downtown Vancouver is expanding in that direction and more area of Vancouver could be covered.

    This also opens up possibilities to allow truck traffic easier acccess to the Terminals and eventually to Hwy. 30. I also could see a streetcar connecting West Vancouver to: St. Johns, U of Portland, NW Front Ave and the Pearl District–in fact all the way out Barbur Bv to Tigard.

  3. I’d also like to re-post my earlier comment endorsing commuter rail as serious option to add to the Columbia River Crossing corridor:

    A regional commuter rail network, based initially on DMU technology. The relevant two links would be Vancouver to Washington County, and Vancouver to Downtown Portland.

    This would not replace light rail, but rather supplement it.

    The Vancouver to Washington County connection would utilize abandoned rail ROW that runs from near the west end of the St. Johns Bridge to the Beaverton/Hillsboro area, and would require extensive track, bed and trestle reconstruction. I bet that DMU passenger service between Washington County and Clark County could be initiated for a fraction of the cost of a new freeway, and if everybody is right about the volume of traffic between those two points, it would do quite well.

    Of course, there is the matter of the spectacular railroad trestle that burned to the ground about a decade ago, which would need to be re-built along with much of the rest of this line (if, in fact, any of the rails/trestles/tunnels are still serviceable). However, the fact that the ROW and grading exists already should still bring the cost of implementing a new service in this corridor way down.

    Perhaps DMU service could be implemented before light rail service; in this scenario, the Portland to Vancouver run might ultimately be replaced by light rail into downtown Vancouver… or it might remain as a more expensive (fare-wise) express service.

    It would be interesting to determine if a stop near St. Johns might be possible for both of these services, as the only interim stop between Portland and Vancouver.

    Longer-term, this basic network could add routes to Columbia County (St. Helens & Scapoose), to McMinnville, and out the Gorge to Hood River & The Dalles.

    The era of building freeways in Oregon is over. We now need to think of better ways to get people around, for less money and less damage to the natural landscape. Putting old railways back to use to serve new markets is an example of the type of innovative thinking that will cause Oregon to emerge as a leader in the 21st century.


  4. Some on this site (Lenny in the thread for HSR) have commented that the CRC is for solving the local access issues and local access demands. This myopic point of view (lacking in foresight) isn’t one of the keys to making the CRC the project that we all wish it could be.

    The I5 Corridor goes directly through all the major cities and mid-sized cities on the West Coast (the unique City by the Bay being the exception). If High Speed Rail (plus 150 mph) is going to work in the USA, we need to start planning for it now.

    If the price of gasoline and diesel continues its continuous rise in extraction costs and production costs (e.g., tar sands into gasoline will not be cheaper then pumping). Just from an economic point of view, having more than one way to move between Portland and Seattle when fuel costs are rising seems very short sighted.

    We need better local access and assets (bike and pedestrian paths and bridges, hybrid buses, and light rail) for local demands. But the CRC is much, much, more than an asset for the 5 mile BIA.

    I am starting to come to the conclusion that the most viable plan is the tunnel option for the freeway part. This is mainly because of the lack of disruption to the current alignment and because a new bridge will not meet the restrictions of the two airports and the Coast Guard.

    Therefore I’m thinking that a tunnel for I5 and for planned HSR is the best way to get separation of the traffic that isn’t getting on and off at Hayden Island. And it the same time, we are preparing a corridor for HSR that really doesn’t cost us anything and will be ready for Oregon to catch up to Washington on the investment side for HSR.

    The current I5 Bridges are, as many of us have agreed, retrofitted for local access, Light Rail, and for people power.

    Ray Whitford

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