Editorial Boards Say We Can Find the CRC Cash

Both the Tribune (“Money can be found for bridge“) and the Oregonian (“Build a bridge to better economy“) have editorialized that we should move ahead with the big bridge option.

From the Trib:

The economic value of reducing congestion on Interstate 5 between Portland and Vancouver is incalculable, but there will be environmental benefits as well. Once a new bridge, interchanges and expanded mass transit are built, tens of thousands of cars will spend less time idling in traffic jams – and less time spewing pollution into the air.

From the O:

Today, freight haulers and the region’s freight-dependent industries can plan their schedules to avoid rush-hour traffic. A few decades hence, that will be impossible. The I-5 bridge will be, for all practical purposes, uncrossable. Freight-dependent industries will choose to expand in regions with swifter, more reliable connections.

Apparently based on assumptions that the this change in capacity has no relationship to the rest of the transportation system (we’ll move the chokepoint to the Rose Quarter), or that development and trip choice patterns won’t respond to the new capacity and simply fill the bridge again (as the I-5 Partnership report warns will happen if land use is not carefully controlled).

Both editorials embrace tolls as part of the funding solution. If we’re willing to go the toll route, why not start now with high-occupancy toll lanes to give freight priority through the crossing outside of peak commute hours?

27 responses to “Editorial Boards Say We Can Find the CRC Cash”

  1. Wow! The Trib admits that the cost of congestion is “incalculable!” Does that mean they’re withdrawing their endorsement of the Cost of Congestion study?

  2. Although I believe there needs to be a middle ground Columbia Crossing option carried forward that would build a new I-5 freeway bridge to correct highway safety issues and also retain the existing bridges for local traffic and transit; the realization is the majority of motorist commuters crossing the Columbia into Oregon disperse throughout the community and are not going to downtown Portland (where Max goes). Exactly how much impact improving the motor vehicle infrastructure of Columbia Crossing will have on the Rose Quarter area of I-5 is still not completely known. The real problem is Portland’s counter productive transportation policies (including curb extensions) that creates more congestion (they do not want to admit it) by reducing motor vehicle capacity (rather than improving it) that increases engine idle times of more cars stuck in traffic city wide. One such example is the HOV lanes on I-5 that only add to overall congestion, stop and go driving, and create choke points of their own. The fact is I-5 from the Rose Quarter to the Marquam Bridge should be the next highway project in line to be funded for additional lanes and other improvements. From a regional functionality standpoint, fixing this I-5 bottleneck is far more important than dribbling dollars away on bicycle infrastructure or congesting arterials with costly streetcars.

  3. As usual, there is nothing there that is particularly persuasive and they don’t even address the real points of disagreement. Newspaper editorials are relationship-based, not fact based. I don’t think many people are persuaded by them one way or another but they do help provide political cover if that is the direction elected officials want to go.

  4. Terry,

    Fine analysis. Care to suggest where you could add lanes on I-5 between the Expo Center and the Rose Garden?

    It doesn’t look promising: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=portland,+or&ie=UTF8&z=17&ll=45.556792,-122.678554&spn=0.005507,0.013207&t=k&om=1

    This is possibly the most humorous argument of antiplanners: we can always add more lanes. You can’t get around the cost and political prohibitiveness of using eminent domain on these neighborhoods (filled with people who probably bike-bus-MAX or drive on local streets to work).

  5. Neither rag gets it. The Trib’s “Sustainability” section has virtually nothing on transportation when everyone knows that motor vehicles are the major source of air & water pollution, green house gases and energy dependence. The “O” preaches about global warming and energy dependence, but can’t get the nerve to get off the “bottle.” The addict’s famous last words…”just give me one more drink, hit, shot, and I’ll quit.” Yeah, right.

  6. Yeah, sure, the cash could be found to build this bridge — if the tolls were high enough, and also applied to the I205 bridge. The Bay Area managed to find the 6-7 billion necessary to replace the East Span of the Bay Bridge, but they got some assistance from Uncle Sam because the existing East Span quite famously fell down during that little earthquake they had during ’89, which was hard to ignore because it happened during the World Series.

    Funding for a bridge project of the same size here would be more difficult, without a doubt — but probably still technically possible.

    But, necessary?

    How much would it cost to just add an arterial bridge to address the local crossing traffic, and put light rail on it — and add some AMTRAK commuter rail service as well? Sure, not everybody from Clark County commutes to downtown Portland. But how many commute to within half a mile of a MAX station or bus stop somewhere within the Tri-Met service district? Between commuter rail and MAX service, they could have their pick of transit options to access their destination.

    And if the bridges to get tolled, and the tolls are at $5 or higher, people will flock to transit.

  7. neat, you can see my house from google map above.

    indeed, sorry I-5 wideners, its gonna be 6 lanes there, no room for any more. this neighborhood is no longer politically isolated. people are paying a premium on real estate here to be near the max and bus lines.

    they aren’t gonna let you take their house or their neighbors.

  8. Terry,
    As a N. Portland resident, I find your comments about widening the freeway laughable. This neighborhood was screwed once (actually many times) and it won’t happen again. I personally don’t care about traffic congestion as it’s part of the cost of driving your car everywhere you go. You don’t like it? Don’t drive. There are plenty of demand side approaches to this problem, your freeway supply side is a non-starter.

  9. Terry:

    I’ve often wondered if perhaps the most logical alignment for MAX from Vancouver would be through downtown and out to Beaverton or Hillsboro. That would cover a wide range of destinations for business commuters (without transfer) and might just make it palatable for Vancouver riders. What do you think?

  10. Certain elements in Vancouver have wanted a “third crossing” for a long time. How about a light rail (or even commuter rail) bridge well downstream from the I-5 bridge connecting with a tunnel through the Tualatin Mountains (aka the West Hills) and on into Hillsboro via various shopping centers, electronics plants, and park and rides?

  11. Doug,

    Actually Jim Howell has been promoting a direct Eastside Connector route for light rail starting at the Rose Quarter to tie in with the proposed Milwaukie line. The Interstate line would then stay on the eastside bypassing the downtown mall detour thereby creating a more timely and better connected cross-town system. Transfers to downtown could be made at most of the eastside bridgeheads. This is a concept that needs to be supported if a Milwaukie line is built.

    And for the naysayers to increased motor vehicle capacity:

    The Eastside Connector will still not meet the needs of the majority of commuters crossing over into Oregon because many of them are going elsewhere and to industrial areas such as along Columbia Boulevard, and in both North and Northwest Portland. The reality is that currently, approximately 80% plus of the area commutes are made by motor vehicle and politically popular or not, that probably will not change. People vote by using their cars everyday. The conclusions that come from Metro’s Cost of Congestion study identify a need for increased vehicle capacity on regional roadways and highways. The Federal Highway Administration has told Metro they should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland and that the Regional Transportation Plan should allow for highway expansion. That may be laughable to some, and there are challenges to expanding highways with few dollars and only modest impacts to land use, but not doing so will only have serious negative consequences to the regional economy, and that is nothing to laugh about.

  12. “People vote by using their cars everyday.”

    Nice sound bite, Terry. Not backed up by much substance. Sure, they vote with their cars every day. That does not mean that the conclusion is building more road capacity. People in the South used to vote every day by using slaves for labor. People in Oregon used to vote every day by logging at an unsustainable level. People in the USSR used to vote every day by lining up for bread at the store. People do what they need to do to get by when they don’t have other, better options.

    With gas prices continuing to rise, with global warming as a real threat, with the reality of air pollution along the I-5 corridor, with public sentiment fully in favor of keeping the Portland area livable it is not probable that your vision of the future is one that people will continue to “vote” for if they have better options.

    Thank goodness.

  13. People do what they need to do to get by when they don’t have other, better options.

    And those better options are…?

    Portland is not a condensed city by any definition; everyone doesn’t live in point ‘A’ and go downtown to work. We have numerous employment centers – Rivergate, PDX, downtown, Clackamas, Kruse Way, Tigard, Beaverton, Tanasbourne, Hillsboro.

    Nor does everyone travel on the same corridors – yes, people do travel from Vancouver to Hillsboro; people also travel from McMinnville to Oregon City; from Estacada to PDX; from St. Helens to Lake Oswego.

    No matter what we will have to have roads – roads are the universal mode of transport that can be utilized by local and long distance; people and freight. MAX/LRT will never serve that wide span of uses that a road will; so where does LRT come into plan in the transportation network?

    And ultimately, we know that we need roads, so why are we beating around the bush and trying to accept some alternate reality that we can mitigate it by forcing more LRT? Yes, some people can be accomodated by LRT – you know, they can also be accomodated by more busses but I don’t see people clamoring for TriMet to buy 200 more busses (because they aren’t sexy enough).

    The issue isn’t whether we can or cannot afford because we’ll find a way one way or another – otherwise we should have never had the Tram, the Streetcar, MAX, or heck TriMet should still be Rose City Transit. It’s how to best use the few dollars we have.

    I still think that the CRC project is being held hostage by LRT. If people up north want it so badly, put it to a vote of Clark County residents to see if they’ll pay the $3B or so for light rail up north. I’m not holding my breath as the track record is pretty poor. If Terry Parker is wrong on his assessment that people vote every day by putting their feet to the gas pedal, then why do so many C-Tran bus seats go empty? Why aren’t MAX trains crowded around the clock and in both directions? Why do highway transportation measures near-consistently pass at the polls but public transit measures are a mixed bag?

    Frankly, I do vote by riding a bus every day, for 45-60 minutes a day. But given the poor level of service I can count on from TriMet, in the last two months I’ve come very close to going from a one-car household to a two-car household – and adding a second car onto the roads, a second car taking up parking space in downtown Portland. Any suggestions???

  14. Why aren’t MAX trains crowded around the clock and in both directions?

    Because not everyone lives/works/etc close to the good service of a MAX station. Because MAX is slow along Interstate Ave and through downtown. Because the market is tilted toward driving with things like “free” parking and pollution clean-up. Because auto use is a habit. Because there’s not that many people traveling at all hours.

    And C-Tran’s seats are empty because their fares have been jacked up.

  15. I for one don’t think its a good thing that the new CRC bridge will transfer the bottleneck to the Rose Quarter. and even if we somehow (how??) Expand I5 thru the RQ, then we have the problem of the bottlenecks at the I5 ramps and the marquam bridge.

    So if were gonna spend 6 billion (which I still don’t understand, how could it possibly cost that much??) Then maybe we should just spend 15 billion and expand I5 all the way, add the new CRC, and put I5 in a tunnel under the Willamette and the Central Eastside.

    Hey, that’s a mega-mega project for sure. But one can use the same arguments to support that project as they’re using to support the big bridge option for the CRC.

    That type of project, even with its outrageous cost, would surely gain more support than the CRC currently has.

  16. And C-Tran’s seats are empty because their fares have been jacked up.

    So, is this to be construed as saying that C-Tran’s bus services are now so expensive that driving costs less? Or that C-Tran’s bus services are so expensive that it is of little value?

  17. Erik says: Nor does everyone travel on the same corridors – yes, people do travel from Vancouver to Hillsboro; people also travel from McMinnville to Oregon City; from Estacada to PDX; from St. Helens to Lake Oswego.

    Ron Says: This is precisely the point! If you want to live in Vancouver and work in Hillsboro, that is your choice. But expanding road capacity to cut down on your commute is a huge and enormous soubsidy. I would rather subsidize public transportation and encourage development along established routes rather than continue to pointlessly expand road capacity. I’m tired of chasing my tail.

  18. Here is a bigger issue I think. Our transit in Portland is remarkably good, and anyone who says otherwise has never lived in most of the cities in the USA.

    Most cities other than, say San Francisco and New York City – have terrible transit. Some have worthy efforts, like Washington DC, and Atlanta. But even those only serve tiny pockets of the population. And yes, I have used them extensively. Then there are systems which are seemingly pervasive until you try and use them where you find out they are disjointed, like Seattle/Tacoma and the LA Metro area.

    But the biggest problem I see with Portland is that we seem very focused on peak travel directions to and from downtown – and that is it.

    So if you need to go cross-town you have difficulty, or if you need to go *against* traffic you are SOL too.

    So we build all these great condos and apartments downtown and in the Pearl/NW but there are almost not transit options against peak traffic. So if you live downtown-ish and you work in the burbs – you are screwed. Try getting from downtown to Kruse Way, Lake Oswego (lots and lots of offices there) in any reasonable fashion in the morning. Getting from downtown into Beaverton or Hillsboro in the opposite flow of traffic is hit and miss as well.

    And if you need to go from Cedar Hills to Lake Oswego without going downtown – just forget about transit. From St. Vincent hospital area to Kruse Way area is at LEAST a 2 hour transit venture, with two or more transfers depending on your route. By the same token, that drive without traffic is less than 10 minutes, and in the worst traffic is less than one hour.

    And the same problem exist all over in the outer parts of the city. Our transit system, in order to cut down on single occupancy vehicles – needs to accommodate more trips that do not focus on the downtown core.

  19. Last thoughts on today’s CRC decision…

    Today we have 14 general purpose freeway lanes across the Columbia, but no dedicated transit lanes, poor biking and walking routes, and no lanes to serve local traffic…image Portland with just the Marquam and Fremont Bridges. Indeed since the Goverors’ TF, HOV lanes have been removed, transit has been cut and bus bays at the Delta/Vanport MAX station are unused.

    If we are talking about earthquakes, none of the existing bridges in the region meet the standard set for a new I-5 bridge. The existing bridges have as good a shot at surviving the Big One as any other.

    In 50 years we had better have made serious reductions in green house gases as per the Western Governors’ goals in today’s “O”…this will not be achieved by adding freeway capacity. Reducing motor vehicle trips is also key to controlling air and water pollution as well as energy dependence.

    Better management of capacity has to start sooner than later. I have $75 vanpool seats that are empty on the 4 vanpools I run from SI to Clark county. We have only begun to reap the returns of demand management. A massive new brige will bring 20k-60k new motor vehicles into N. Portland…I hope that’s not our vision of the future.

    Its curious but in the energy industry conservation (read “demand management”) has been the path forward for almost 30 years, but on the transportation side we keep trying to build more “power plants.” Someone once noted that the excess capacity on I-5 is in the backseats of all the SOVs that cross every day.

    Last, Charlie Hales noted to me the other day that when he sees log trucks running up and down I-5 through Portland all day, he is unconvinced about the freight “crisis.” Freight presents about 10% of peak hour traffic on I-5; offering commuters (many of whom have told me they do NOT want to be on the freeway at all) options….local access, lightrail, safe bike/walk…is the most cost effective way to shift capacity utilization to freight. Together with freight bypass lanes at key on ramps, freight priority in HOV lanes in nonpeak hours, and last, legalizing Triples on WA, we can manage getting goods moved around.

    And remember the international concern that brought 1000 jobs to N. Portland does not ship a single shoe over our roads or docks.

    Hope the CRC recognizes the need to at least thoroughly vett something less expensive than the Big Kahuna.

  20. …why do so many C-Tran bus seats go empty?
    There’s a few things that happened there.

    – The fare on the Portland Express routes (105, 114, 134, 157, 164, 173, 177, 190) have been $3 each way or $105/mo. since May 1, 2005. In Sept. 2006, they instituted an “Express Go Anywhere” $6 all day pass, which is good on any C-TRAN or TriMet bus or MAX. This was in response to the looming “Option 1” at the time, which among other things, would’ve cut all service to Oregon except buses turning around at Delta Park and Parkrose. Many of the riders stated they wanted to continue to ride a direct express bus from a Clark Co. Park and Ride to Downtown Portland, and were willing to pay more of the cost that it takes for that service to be provided. the above fares were the result.

    One of the most vocal groups about the fare are PSU students who live in Clark Co., who feel because they choose to attend a school in Downtown Portland, rather than choosing to work to earn a living in Downtown Portland, they should pay less.

    – C-TRAN was originally told having any operations on 3rd and 4th were not options, and the original Downtown express bus alignments were crossmall on I believe Washington and Salmon. This didn’t go over too well with riders, resulting in the current alignment, where 105 & 134 lost over half the original route (they originally went North on 6th to Glisan, and returned to Vancouver on the I-405 onramp from Glisan), and 164 & 177 lost considerable service area as well (originally serving 5th Ave.), making a ‘loop’ onto Broadway, Salmon, and 2nd. Currently, all C-TRAN routes return on the Morrison Bridge. There’s talks that C-TRAN is not welcome on 5th and 6th when it reopens.

    – Even so, several have said it is now too inconvenient to use, since they now have to transfer to a late TriMet bus to get to their destination (or the bus was early and they miss their connection).

    The last time I rode one of the express buses was before the changes on Jan. 9, 2007, and the 164 I was on was filled to the typical standing room only capacity. I was a standee and paid the $3. If ridership has gone down since then, it’s probably more of a combination of the latter two.

  21. But expanding road capacity to cut down on your commute is a huge and enormous soubsidy. I would rather subsidize public transportation and encourage development along established routes rather than continue to pointlessly expand road capacity.

    So you’re not in favor of building roads that would offer direct routes from point ‘A’ to point ‘L’, but you’re in favor of building rail routes for the same?

  22. I think MAX as a commuter option for Vancouverites is ridiculous! Why don’t they just realign the Amtrak to the eastside and move the train station to the Rose Quarter area, and make the current train station into the Public Market? They could have commuter rail service originating in DT Vancouver, with a stop at the Expo Center (to connect to MAX) and another one at the new train station in the Rose Quarter. This way it wouldn’t require nearly as many stops, and vastly improve the Amtrak service as well. If Vancouverites want to extend out from the Amtrak station that would be up to them to do.

  23. Why don’t they just realign the Amtrak to the eastside and move the train station to the Rose Quarter area, and make the current train station into the Public Market?

    Actually I sort of support the idea, but not to place the train station near the Rose Quarter (there isn’t really a lot of room there, and there’s still an active grain elevator there that isn’t going away anytime soon).

    Rather, I’d see the train station located between the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges. Lots of under-utilized buildings, and the City seems bent on gentrifying the Eastside anyways. There’s plenty of bus access into downtown on either bridge, so it’s an easy trip downtown (just as easy as the current Union Station location.)

    Ironically, the Southern Pacific used to have a train station (“East Morrison Street”) which was more-or-less a relief station for Union Station (in service until the 1950s, IIRC). If Amtrak could gain access through Union Pacific’s North Portland tunnel, it’d also shorten the route from Portland to Vancouver, and eliminate having to cross two bridges. The “New Portland Station” could also serve as a “mixed-use” development, incorporating a shopping area, a hotel, meeting facilities, office space, possibly a produce market (since it’s located near Produce Row)…and the new station would directly front MLK Blvd – so it’d be much more visible.

    The station could be built to a more modern design to complement the newer skyscrapers in downtown and the Convention Center, so as to reduce the perception that Amtrak is a throwback to the 1920s/1930s.

    Then I’d like to see Union Station also be home to a railroad museum. Public market, maybe. Don’t we already have a zillion of them? Why not make Saturday Market a permanent market?

  24. Last I heard they were going to relocate the Saturday market and also turn the skidmore area into the “Little Italy District”. I don’t know what’s going on with these proposals. Apparently since they so overspent on the tram they had to stop their old plan which was to turn that fire station into the public market/Saturday market but that’s been tabled for now. I wonder how many other things they tabled because of that stupid thing? Anyway…. My thinking in having the train station near Rose Quarter would be for connectivity to the MAX. Otherwise you’d have to connect somehow from the train to the MAX.

  25. My thinking in having the train station near Rose Quarter would be for connectivity to the MAX.

    There are numerous busses that cross either the Hawthorne or Morrison Bridges that will provide connectivity to MAX. If the Streetcar ever goes across the Hawthorne Bridge, it’ll provide a link. If a Streetcar line is built on Grand/MLK, there’s another link. And MAX could be routed on the Hawthorne Bridge instead of the new Caruthers Bridge, which would provide yet another link.

    And of course Line 6 would also connect the train station with MAX.

    If it were really a “problem” TriMet could institute a shuttle, similar to the old Route 83-OMSI line (in fact the shuttle could serve both OMSI and Union Station). To make it super rider friendly, if Fareless Square is abolished it could continue as the “free ride” bus (similar to Seattle’s Waterfront Streetcar line).

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