CRC Open House Question # 1

Here’s the first question of twelve from the Columbia River Crossing project open house. We’ll bundle up all the responses for all the questions and forward them to the project staff to include in the public comment record.

Do you agree with the staff recommendation for the bridge?


Replace the existing bridge with a new I-5 bridge to carry highway traffic, transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

Agree/Disagree. Discuss…

22 responses to “CRC Open House Question # 1”

  1. I’m am very skeptical that a large bridge is the best investment of public resources.

    But I feel very strongly that only doing full cost estimating on one approach is irresponsible and disrespectful to the citizens who will evaluate the results of the EIS.

    We should have real options going into the DEIS, even if some of them do not completely meet the Purpose and Need criteria.

    If we have to, let’s ammend the Purpose and Need to be less constraining.

  2. Perhaps they should pose the question: do you agree with the staff recommendation that the best way to spend $2 billion in transportation in the region is to build a new bridge?

  3. No I am also skeptical that such a large, costly, bridge will in the end solve the problems posed by this corridor. It seems to me that alternatives have not been given a full review.

    And I would agree with Betsy here, is this really the best way to spend our resources regionally?

  4. Perhaps they should pose the question: do you agree with the staff recommendation that the best way to spend $2 billion in transportation in the region is to build a new bridge?

    And that’s exactly the trap of this process. The “Purpose and Need” only allows the project to look at the impact in the “Bridge Influence Area”. It does not take a regional view.

    If you asked the question “where would you spend the next $2B on transportation in the region?” I doubt the answer would be this bridge idea.

  5. Chris, so far I’m 100% on board with you on this too.

    We could build an arterial bridge, a seperate light rail bridge, and probably another arterial bridge down the bloody river for 2 billion.

    There really needs to be some evaluation of wtf is going on here. This is getting out of hand.

  6. If, as the staff report suggests, the only solution is a $2+ billion bridge. And, if as people here seem to believe, there are better places to spend $2 billion on transportation. Then, maybe it is time to pull the plug on the $1 million per month process.

    I suspect a broader, more open ended, study of improving the integration of Clark County and Oregon that looked at land use, economic development, housing and transportation might be a better use of the study money.

  7. I’m thinking Mt. Hood Freeway here. This region killed the Mt. Hood freeway and put the money into a whole lot of other transportation projects.

    Is it worth spending $2 billion to fix the river crossing? If so, maybe there needs to be an alternative plan developed by local governments that (a) reasonably addresses issues of safety and congestion on the Interstate Bridge and (b) packages a whole lot of other transportation improvements (street projects, interchange improvements, light rail, bus lanes) for the same $2 billion. Split the cost of the bridge and split the improvements between Oregon and Washington. Try to get some kind of community consensus that $2 billion for a single bridge is really a bad idea compated to “Plan B.”

  8. I think that many of you have hit the nail on the head, that they need a complete re-write of the purpose and need document.

    The CRC Task Force was not looking for what is in the best interest of the region, they hired people to build a bridge and come up with the justifications and processes to make that happen.

    The blinder have been on from the begining, this is and has not been about “Good Public Policy”.

  9. With Oregon’s participatory style of decision- making this could get very complicated. I hope I have been honest in trying to suggest how most of the needs that have been voiced in this discussion (over the last two years) can be met with the greatest dividend for the public’s dollar.

    I think the concept of a local access bridge to Hayden Island from Vancouver is desirable. I think extending the Interstate MAX to Vancouver, since it has already gotten as far as the EXPO center, is reasonable. I think increasing overall lane capacity over the Columbia is prudent, since the metropolitan region is sure to grow by leaps and bounds. I think enhancing the AMTRAK station area in Vancouver is smart, especially if we are trying to encourage and support interstate rail travel. And because I think high density growth in Portland will, sooner or later, continue northward along Front Ave and Hwy 30 I think there is one project that can meet all of these needs:

    Build a multi modal crossing and route somewhere near or through the BNSF corridor that links Vancouver to Northwest Portland. That seemed, to me, an apparent project even before I met other people proposing the same.

    What does it take to build highway and commuter rail access in a corridor owned by a railroad? I wish that I knew–it’s a question for the experts. Geographically I think it makes sense but it certainly would be neccessary to know the legal implications and/or requirements.

    The issue of wooden pilings supporting the present I-5 bridge structures caused me to do some research. Apparently this was not uncommon in the early twentieth century. The Oakland Bay bridge was constructed in a similar fashion, but this had become a concern after recent seismic events. In SF also, the Ferry Building, quite large, still sits on wooden pilings, even following renovation. I wonder how many other bridges around the West Coast were built this way, and what their current status would be. Apparently, old growth Douglas fir timbers, heavily creosoted, were used.

    I think a major seismic event, one great enough to damage the present bridges, would also bring down other ramps and overpasses, causing blocakage elsewhere along the route. Nobody ever knows how these events will, shall we say, “shake out.”

  10. Replace the existing bridge with a new I-5 bridge to carry highway traffic, transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

    As others are getting at, this shouldn’t be a yes/no question. The answer depends on different issues: Are the present bridges usable? If not, can they be fixed? What kind of bridge would it be (i.e. how many lanes)? Are there other options besides a replacement bridge? Considering that, I would have to “disagree”.

  11. The Governors’ I-5 Task Force voted 10-10 in 2002 to recommend the “6-2-2” for the DEIS.
    The TF also recommended changes in landuse and aggressive transportation demand management.
    Last, the TF recommended 10 lanes—6 thru and 4 auxiliary/arterial—and MAX in the corridor.
    It seems that only this last recommendation is being acted upon, but now I’m hearing 12 lanes and none are arterial.
    They have their heart set on a big new bridge that could suck up regional transportation resources for a generation.
    Seems like looking closely at something a little less costly would be prudent.
    But my bottom line is…No MAX?, No Tolls?, No Bridge.

  12. I think the concept of a local access bridge to Hayden Island from Vancouver is desirable.

    I agree. The advantage of a local bridge is that it provides better connectivity between Portland and Vancouver without the regional impacts that a new freeway bridge will have.

    they need a complete re-write of the purpose and need document.

    I think it ought to be clear that the purpose and need were largely defined by the agencies doing the study – the two state highway departments. The study has been focused on the problems on I5, not broader regional benefits and it has concluded that the only project that will really fix I5 is a new bridge.

    So the next question is whether achieving those purposes on I5 is a high enough priority to support a new bridge with a $2+ billion allocation from the region’s transportation budget. Its important to recognize that some of the money from the feds may not be available for other projects. Its equally important to realize that some of that money would likely be available for other projects.

    My take is that it isn’t. And the greatest service the CRC task force could do for the region is to remove that option from the table. Once that happens, there will be other proposals that may not “fix” I5, but will provide benefits to the region including limiting some of the impact of the bridge on the region.

    I think increasing overall lane capacity over the Columbia is prudent, since the metropolitan region is sure to grow by leaps and bounds.

    I agree to some extent, if the lane capacity is designed for local traffic. But I think the real goal ought to be to increase the capacity to transport people and goods across the river, not vehicles, and to improve the system’s efficiency in using that capacity for the highest value trips.

    I think we will see many realistic proposals for doing that once a much larger new bridge is no longer in the picture.

  13. If a middle ground option, one that retains one or both of the existing bridges is not carried through to the end of the entire process, then a big new bridge can NOT be justified.

    If a big new bridge is the end result of this process, and tolls are charged as part of the financing plan, user equity must trump ALL political agendas and tolls must be charged to ALL user modes of transport including transit riders, bicyclists and pedestrians. Otherwise, accommodating those alternative user modes not paying tolls on the crossing can NOT be justified and the specialized infrastructure for them MUST be eliminated from the project.

  14. It is my understanding that the Steel Bridge has simular conditions with its piling like the I-5 bridges. We put heavy rail on it, Light Rail on it and a lot of cars and PED and know one has suggested that it has to be torn down.

    Now comes the CRC team with an agenda to build a new bridge and we create new interpetations and understandings.

    10-plus years ago the joint WSDOT and ODOT team that supervised and reported on the rehab of the I-5 bridges reported that these bridges were in great shape and would last along time and were safe for the public.

  15. Driving up to Seattle Friday afternoon, I got on I-5 at the Morrison Bridge ramp. Traffic was totally backed up on the Morrison on-ramp at 12:00. And why not…there’s TWO lanes.

    I don’t think a new bridge alone will do anything, let alone at a cost of $2 or $3 billion or whatever the real cost will be.

    I don’t think we need “make work” projects for our state transportation folks…

    We’ve far more pressing transportation needs. And Vancouver needs to get its land-use act together before I think we should be subsidizing their suburban sprawl.

  16. I think that many who want to see Vancouver “get its land-use act together” want to deny that Vancouver needs better connectivity to Portland in order to grow its economic base. Right now for a business in Vancouver there is a significant penalty to doing business there, since you have to deal with bridge congestion to get to downtown, the airport, or the rest of Portland.

    The company I work for relocated to Vancouver, and it’s a great thing for us, except when an employee has to go to a meeting in downtown at 10:30 AM. There’s still heavy traffic all the way down through Delta Park, which can lead to a half-hour delay on the wrong day. It’s the same thing trying to get someone back into the office at 4 PM. We face a lot of lost productivity from people sitting in traffic trying to get between Portland and Vancouver.

    Fortunately, I often can work in stops in the downtown area either at the beginning or end of my day. When I can’t I end up wasting a half hour to hour sitting in traffic just to get some paperwork signed or drop off some replacement equipment.

    And for the record, I live in OR. The delays caused by the bridge never interfere with my commute, but rather with my workday itself. It’s not good for the economy of Vancouver, or of the greater area, if there’s such a high price to pay for doing business in a location that at the current rate is only going to get worse.

    We can yell till we’re blue in the face that Vancouver needs more office space or industrial space, but it does no good if nobody’s going to move in.

  17. I see your point Dave and wish nothing but the best for Vancouver, but I don’t see how this bridge is going to suddenly free up I-5 for quick shots back and forth to Portland. Ok, we get a new bridge, but the rest of I-5, 405, and the interchanges all remain the same. I don’t see how this bridge changes traffic conditions except for better access lanes and safety.

    Can anyone explain the belief that this bridge will dramatically help traffic conditions on the Oregon side? Won’t the traffic just bottle neck at the 405-I5-I84 changes like it does now?

  18. With all the talk about an arterial bridge, why not use the existing bridge as the arterial, and build I-5 on a bypass around?

    I’ve mapped a route that would take off from I-5 at the current Columbia Blvd. exit, head northwest towards the BNSF/UP mainline and Marine Drive, then cross over the North Portland Slough onto Hayden Island (west of the BNSF mainline), then over the Columbia at a northwest diagonal to the auto dock at the Port of Vancouver, then skirt west to travel between Vancouver Lake and the Columbia well past the developed Vancouver area, to meet back up with I-5 near the rest area.

    Expensive? Yes. But it would do a much better job of linking the industrial areas (read: truck route) and get cars away from the commercial areas of Hayden Island and downtown Vancouver, and continue to use the existing bridges as an expressway (limited access, but more on/off points and slower speeds).

    Result: New I-5 bridge, more capacity, moves freight traffic away from congestion, permits “arterial” solution.

  19. So far, I do not agree with the staff recommendations. I do agree very strongly with all four of Chris’s suggestions (the first comment).

  20. The CRC’s documents say that the difference between 3 and 5 lanes southbound is very minor, there will be a ~10% change in travel times between 179th Street and I-84, but the local traffic, (SR-500 to Columbia Boulevard) sees no benefit from 5 southbound lanes instead of the 3 currently in place.
    (bottom graph on page 35.) (What actually helps the local traffic is an artery bridge, but that alternative is being eliminated from further study.)

    However, most people would think it was weird to build a 5 lane bridge north, and a 3 lane south, since most vehicles that go north eventually go south, or vice versa, (look at page 19, the two rush hours are within 5% of each other,) but since the northbound PM rush hour is much worse than the southbound AM one [today,] it seems likely that the problem isn’t simply a question of number of lanes, or width of lanes, or shoulders or anything else having to do with the almost identical bridges that serve those two rush hours… Looking at other freeways that have different numbers of lanes in different directions, (OR-26 for instance, is 4 lanes west, but 3 lanes east,) you end up with fairly obvious explanations for why they should be different, (in 26’s case, a big hill.) Any this is the important thing: Once you’ve defined the problem, (a hill,) you can think of solutions, (more lanes up the hill, or a tunnel to Beaverton in this example,) and then you can analysis them. But analyzing the solutions when you don’t understand the problem tends to result in you picking the wrong one, (you wouldn’t add extra MAX tracks up the hill to Beaverton, you use a tunnel. For 26, extra lanes on the uphill section is appropriate.) However, you don’t start with the solution “more lanes” and then analyze to see if that works, you actually need to define the problem in first place. In this case, you need to explain why southbound rush hour doesn’t have the same problems that northbound does, even though they both move about the same number of vehicles.

    Since the CRC haven’t explained that in the first place, I’m going to have to guess: It looks like an interchange problem, the interchanges on the southbound direction do a better job than the ones that service the northbound direction. Certainly one way to solve an interchange problem is to build more lanes on the freeway itself so that people can avoid the interchanges and the related merges, but that only works up to a point, and it isn’t the only way, and in this case, is probably the most expensive way.

    Once you’ve defined it as as interchange problem, you can come up with several solutions, such as changing the SR-500 and SR-17 interchanges so that they aren’t so close together and to the bridge, so that people don’t have to change lanes on the bridge. One solution for that, is actually one big interchange for both roads, such that all the people that are trying to use either road aren’t trying to get into the right hand lane at the end of the bridge. This, coupled with removing the Hayden Island one completely, and running an artery bridge from Vancouver to Marine Drive to service Hayden Island would have a major impact on safety and congestion, and decreases local travel times, but this has not been studied.

    However, back to my original point about the second graph on page 35: the alternatives being advanced to the DEIS increase southbound travel times slightly in the project area over the no action alternative. And that is kind of a big deal for the NEPA process: the CRC needs to have an alternative in DEIS that actually meets the first two parts of the purpose and need for the southbound direction, if they don’t, they are just going to burn up $1M/month forever. However, I do actually think that that is better than spending multiple billions on a bridge that will increase congestion, so I can’t complain too much…

  21. Conversion of the existing bridges to arterial and transit and putting through traffic in a tunnel (its done all around the world) was rejected by staff and the CRC. Too costly, but did the calculation include the value of land adjacent to the river that is recaptured when the freeway on either side of the bridges is de-constructed? Probably not.
    This process is so politically driven, one has to laugh. Even the widening of I-5 over the Slough is driven by pressure from WA…it is for Clark county commuters and is a very freight unfriendly project. Likewise, Vancouver does not want an arterial bridge…so its out. Clark county can’t bring itself to embrace MAX, so we continue to study is poor cousin, BRT.
    Maybe its time that the members of the CRC from the OR side laid down some lines in the sand…we built MAX at great expense up to the river; hence, it must cross. We have no capacity either on the freeway network or arterial network for a massive increase in vehicles; hence new capacity must be dispersed to one or more smaller arterial bridges. We can’t afford most of this without tolls; hence both I-5 and I-205 must be tolled to pay for cross river projects. Its time for the tail to stop wagging the dog.
    Last, don’t forget the ’97 bridge closure…we know how to mangement this piece of road so it works just fine, if we have the will.

  22. Most people know that have commuted in the I-5 corridor that there is a great deal of vehicle trublence that exists on the bridges and BIA of I-5 that can be directly related to the on/off ramps at Hayden Island.

    Equally Matthew has identified problems of lanes changes of north bound traffic trying to get to SR-14 and Mill Plain that starts on the bridge. However once you get into Washington north bound traffic smoothes out and flows with limited impedance, there are very little problems after you get pass Mill Plain going north.

    This Hayden Island Choke Point, is a big deal, because it has historically has reduced the number of vehicles that crosses the Columbia River on the Interstate Bridge by about half of what we could realize. Sometime it appears to be better and sometime it is worse.

    One of the sloutions that can happen without replacing the I-5 bridges with this effective 6-lanes CRC Project going into a 2 and 3-lane I-5 corridor in Portland (destroying any semblance of balance) is eliminating the current on/off ramps at Hayden Island and creating new access from Marine Drive that prevents the disrupting effects and trublance coming from these current Hayden Island on/off ramps from reducing the capacity of the I-5 corridor.

    On the north side of the river one of the possible solutions to SR-14 would be creating a new combination Mill Plain/SR-14 exist with a fly-over ramp that goes over I-5 and merges with the south bound SR-14 traffic.

    The design of this, I think we should leave to the professional but it could be one of many steps that could be taken to reduce the number of entrences and exits to and from the I-5 freeway to where it becomes more of a restricted corridor.

    We must address our regional freight mobility needs and impacts that we see coming from these CRC recommendations. I honestly do not see anything positive coming from these CRC recommendations. In fact, I see only negative impacts. Without a question these recommendations will induce more traffic into the I-5 corridor and that will make the conditions that we now only worse in out years.

    The solution to these problems that is consistant with todays land use is creating a new alternate multi-mode N. Portland Street arterial corridor with Freight Specific capabilities, that moves people and freight away from the I-5 corridor and closer to their places of employment and the orgination and destination of products and goods that come and go from our industrial work centers like; PDC’s River Gate and all of our Terminals, industrial and commercal centers in these areas designated within our current land use planning.

    The replacing of the current inadequate BNSF RR Bridge to compliment this new alternate multi-mode arterial built in a public/private partnership should have a much higher priority then the CRC Project because it just fits in and provides the ability to extend Light Rail on this new 3rd bridge into Vancouver without and all or nothing approach like what the CRC Task Force recommendations do.

    This could eliminate the need for an all or nothing vote in Clark County on a Bi-State Transit Taxing Authority. Odds are that this vote would fail and any recommendation that forces this vote (that includes the CRC Recommendations) is going to fail with the Washington voters. If Light Rail could be extended into Vancouver with the loop around the back side of the EXPO Center with a stop on Haydoen Island and the next stop at a new Vancouver Transit (maybe where the current Columbian newpaper office are) funded within a public/private partnership and operationally by fares, we could have some win – win’s.

    We must reduce congestion in the I-5 corridor for the environment, people, businesses and all stakeholder that rely on some effective north/south flow and the CRC Project recommendations are a step backwards in my opinion. The problem is much more then just the I-5 bridges and the Bridge Influence Area’s.