CRC and Land Use

One of the persistent questions being asked about the Columbia River Crossing project is whether it won’t exacerbate the jobs-housing imbalance between the two sides of the river.

Staff’s answer is that it won’t, and that this was validated with a modeling run in Metro’s Metroscope tool.

I’ve asked staff for a copy of the Metroscope analysis, but the results are summarized in Appendix C to the 2002 Final Strategic Plan (PDF, 5.8M) of the I-5 Partnership project.

Reading this carefully poses another question: if we get the land use plans wrong, will the CRC make any difference? Here’s the relevant section from the report:

Highway and transit investments in the corridor also carry risks if the development pressure associated with the increased accessibility is not well managed.

  • Increased demand for housing in Clark County due to the location of jobs in the center of the region and the faster travel times to jobs in Portland may increase pressure to expand the Clark County urban growth area along the I-5 Corridor to the north. If more new houses are built than jobs in Clark County, I-5 will become overloaded to levels that would exist if no improvements were made. This would be contrary to the regional policy and limit the capacity for freight.
  • Industrial areas are at greater risk of being converted to commercial uses at new and improved interchanges with the improved travel times at these locations. As the region’s population has increased, the value of land along the freeway has also increased. This increase in value increases development pressure. Value and corresponding development pressure will increase as accessibility is further improved. If not protected, this development will erode the supply of increasingly scarce industrial land, reduce the opportunities to create family wage jobs close to where people live, and generate more traffic than the system can handle, even with new capacity.

Growth must be managed to ensure that:

  • Clark County growth does not result in new freeway capacity being used by commuters, instead of truckers for the movement of goods.
  • The expected life span of investments is not shortened.
  • Scarce industrial land is not converted to commercial uses.
  • Local jurisdictions implement necessary zoning and regulatory changes to attract mixed-use and compact housings around transit stations. The availability of land within the Metro UGB and the Clark County UGAs changes where and how the region will grow. If Metro has a tight UGB, it will increase demand for housing in Clark County, even more than the effect of the added accessibility due to the transit and highway investment. If Clark County expands the UGA, it will also attract growth. UGB/A decisions alone can change traffic demands across the river.

So it seems to me that as local governments are being asked to sign off on the task force DEIS recommendation (which the task force will vote on in February), they should be asking whether the land use plans are in fact in place and being implemented to make sure that the CRC will function as intended by the Partnership.

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