Randy’s Back

Oregonian Architecture Critic Randy Gragg is back from his fellowship at Harvard, and in one of his first columns after his return, he takes on the Columbia River Crossing project.

Randy’s not looking at environmental or transportation concerns, he’s worried that just as the original construction of I-5 did, a new bridge will devastate the urban design of downtown Vancouver!

All the more ironic that more political pressure to increase capacity in the corridor seems to be coming from the Washington side than the Oregon side (not that there isn’t plenty on the Oregon side).

10 responses to “Randy’s Back”

  1. Jason, as I understand it the issue is the height of any bridge that would clear river traffic. Once you get to that height, whether arterial or freeway, you pretty much dictate that it’s going to have to land deep into downtown.

    Still, a simple arterial bridge might have less impact than freeway ramps.

  2. It seems as if Vancouver has already chosen to be a spread-out commuter suburb. if the Clark County region wants to transform itself with density and transport options, I’m all for it.

    But at this point I don’t see how anyone can balk at a larger bridge through downtown. As Chris mentioned, the majority of the support for this project comes from Vancouver. The new bridge will only accelerate the type of growth typical of Clark Co.

    on the other hand, if Vancouver wants to become a truly livable city, we should consider a transit-oriented bridge and start charging insane tolls for commuters on I-5. I think a $7 toll one way is good. After all, the golden gate is $5, and the freeloading washingtoneers should pay for the infrastructure that allows them to cheat taxes that everyone else pays…

    Either way, I’m not going to lose any sleep because Vancouver is becoming less livable. And I certainly don’t have a problem with Vancouverites navigating clogged freeways as long as we can find a solution for freight.

  3. It would be nice to see the data on the bridge lift issue. Most of the year barge traffic uses the hump, so no lifts are required for them, just for private sail boats.
    If the freeway stays on the existing bridges…after they get earthquake proofed…the arterial bridge could have a lift as well and not intrude into Downtown Vancouver much at all.
    The easiest solution to the “lift problem” is to be sure that interstate traffic knows at the I-5/I-205 split that they should take the latter option.
    Last I heard, staff wants to kill the arterial option, but the CRC committee keeps it alive.

  4. Randy is correct. We have turned our highways over to engineers much the same way the soviet union turned its housing over to engineers. The results in the Soviet Union were ghastly apartments that were all engineering function with no design for human sensibilities and terrible places to live. The results in the United States are our ghastly freeways by people with no recognition of the places they go through as having any value.

    As Chris mentioned, the majority of the support for this project comes from Vancouver. The new bridge will only accelerate the type of growth typical of Clark Co.

    I think it is a mistake to use Clark County and Vancouver interchangeably. The fact is that the pressure for the new bridge has not come from the city of Vancouver any more than it has come from the city of Portland. The pressure is coming from WASHDOT, who still sees every transportation problem as an excuse for a new soviet-style road, and rural Clark County housing developers who depend on highways to create customers for their sprawling housing developments.

    Its not only urban design issues that are being ignored, but virtually any other community impacts that aren’t directly related to freeway operations. There isn’t a single local connection off of I5 that isn’t congested in the morning. Now they want to put half again as much traffic from Clark County into that network without even considering the impacts.

  5. I should be clear – “without even considering the impacts on the community.” They are certainly considering the traffic impacts on their other highways and arterials.

  6. Vancouver has also made great strides in turning its City Center into the kind of mixed user center we want in the region. I would hate to see it set back by a road.

    I wonder how Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard feels about Randy’s column?

  7. Its great to have Randy back. And not a day too soon. It puzzles me that Mayor Royce who has worked so hard to make Downtown Vancouver come alive (as well as the Historic Reserve area) favors the big new bridge. He is also a firm supporter of lightrail, but I just hear a big sucking sound over there when I imagine a ton more freeway capacity.
    20K more vehicles per day will not do much to further the revitalization of North Portland either. Indeed in some of the studies done by Metro for consultants working for the Governors’ I-5 Task Force, new capacity depressed property values in N. Portland while those in Clark county go up. Why would we do this to ourselves?
    As a member of that TF, I cast the lone NO vote on the final recommendation after the arterial option was not included in those recommended for a EIS (on an 10-10 tie vote!). Anyway, it occurred to me in that process that what is lacking is a local or arterial bridge…a Broadway Bridge, if you will. As things now stand one has to get on the interstate freeway just to get a drink at Shenanigan’s. Data shows that at least 1/3 of the trips on I-5 is local; many drivers would welcome a arterial option. Add lightrail to that bridge, and you have an effective and less costly solution.
    Last, freight is 10% or less of peak hour traffic; so if there is a problem with freight movement, it seems logical to provide options to some of those peak hour commuters…i.e. lightrail, arterial bridge, etc. But I’ve become a real skeptic on the freight issue and believe it is now used as a stalking horse for more road capacity.
    But if we really want to spend a lot of money, I still like the tunnel option for thru traffic and the conversion of the existing bridges for local traffic and lightrail and replacement of the freeway segments on either side with boulevards and high density development.

  8. Back in approximately 1997 or 98, I sat through a presentation by the Port of Portland at Metro as they discussed what they called a Port-to-Port arterial connecting the Port of Portland and Port of Vancouver properties with a new bridge.

    Subsequent proposals have called for this arterial that would replaced the current Rail Road Swing Bridge with a double deck bridge.

    This arterial would target improving freight mobility (truck and rail), provide capacity to have light and heavy/commuter rail, and with PED and bike lanes on the upper deck.

    This arterial would provide the needed back doors and intersections to Hayden Island, Marine Drive, Columbia Blvd., Lombard, Swan Island and would end on Highway 30. There is a natural connection in Vancouver with Mill Plain Industrial by-pass. This allows for connection back to I-5 where 1000 trucks per day can be filter off of the I-5 corridor just coming out of the Port of Vancouver.

    This new corridor would run along what is Portland Street through north Portland and would eliminate 95% of all commercial truck traffic that comes out of Rivergate and travel through the St Johns and crosses the Historic St. Johns Bridge.

    The last reasonable proposal that I saw on this called for a public/private partnership to build this arterial, bridges and new RR capacity. They said that they could do this by forming this partnership, with the Ports, RR, Transit entities, maritime entities, PDC, local governments, state Governments, and FED.

    What was most important about this proposal was that this could be done without trying to put tolls on both the Glenn Jackson and Interstate Bridges.

    They would

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