Previewing the Decision

Jim Mayer’s article in the Sunday O (“Next I-5 chokepoint: $6 billion“) puts the choices nicely into perspective:

The proposal from the task force staff boils down to a choice between committing the region’s energy, money and political will to a single megaproject — “Gargantua, the Bridge,” according to one critic — or doing nothing.

And regional leaders worry that the sheer scale and cost of the project could doom the entire enterprise politically, leaving a clogged, aging, accident-prone bridge in its wake.

Metro President David Bragdon said he doesn’t want to narrow the bridge options too quickly. “It would be a fiscal mistake and a political mistake.”

The key task force meeting is tomorrow at 4pm (even in our Google Calendar tells you a different start time) at:

Oregon Department of Transportation
123 NW Flanders St., Portland

10 responses to “Previewing the Decision”

  1. i hate to admit this, but i haven’t been paying too much attention to this matter. it seemed to have that air of inevitability to it, and also seemed out of my control. however, since last weeks meeting, i have read quite a bit about it, and one quote that i noticed in yesterday’s oregonian really made my jaw drop (i’m sure this is something most people here have been aware of for a long time, but humor me):

    Only so many cars can be pushed through I-5, even with a new bridge, said Chairman Steve Stuart. The bottleneck will shift south to the Rose Garden area, highway officials concede.

    so highway officials acknowledge that this 12 lane crc will not actually get rid of any bottleneck, but rather transfer it a few miles south! if highway officials concede that the current proposal does not solve our gridlock problem, are they tangentially admitting that the reason for this proposal is a taste for pork (the federal kind)? over and over again they mention in the article the need to rush, to make decisions and take advantage of newly aquired congressional clout. it smells like pork to me…

  2. I don’t mind pork, but can we get some pork that we don’t have to pay for half of? How about we stick to the old sources, like not cutting trees, or not catching fish, or not irrigating our crops, or any number of other plans that had been working so well for us until lately…

    (Apparently when the timber money replacement subsidy ran out in rural counties this year, they laid off half the road departments. It made sense that logging trucks needed roads, but how come, when there have been no logging trucks for like 7 years now, they still needed the roads?)

  3. It’s because in their infinite wisdom, Government pork barrel senators and congressman had pushed to keep those little towns fully funded. Even though they weren’t needed anymore.

    It is thus, the sickly game of politics, that we Americans allow to continue day to day. Amazing as it is, Portland politics are actually a LOT cleaner than most cities in this country. So pay yourself on the back, but don’t let them get out of hand.

  4. Seems to me it’s time to seriously revisit the westside bypass…..diverting I-5 traffic from going thru Vancouver/Portland if there’s no need to stop….ala freight haulers, business travelers, tourists, express buses etc.

    OK….I can hear it already….”save the farmland!”….but friends, if we are to reduce congestion and get traffic moving again, and accommodate the growth that is coming….like it or not…..there must be tradeoffs. I don’t have them at hand, but I’m sure data exist that define how many vehicles would divert to the bypass were it an option….cutting off at about Kelso/Longview, hooking up with I-5 again at about Tualatin/Wilsonville.

    Gotta believe this idea would substantially reduce traffic at CRC, enabling less than Mega-solution. And let’s be truthful with ourselves….mass transit and bike lanes ain’t gonna get the job done….we gotta build roads now, before the social planners strangle us all.

  5. The westside bypass would cost about $2B for the Tualatin to 26 portion alone. Then it would need to cut across the west hills, which would cost even more than that, (even if there was a good route, which there isn’t,) and would cut though the middle of a very nice park in the process, (unless they built a tunnel, which would double the price.) Then, it would need to cross two rivers, requiring two freeway bridges, which I can’t see costing less than $1B each, and take out a bunch of land in North Portland and again in Vancouver to Longview. Total cost for that project? Probably $10B or so. (Makes the CRC appear cheap.)

    Of course, the best part is that will divert less than 600 vph at rush hour off of I-5 or a little under 1/3 of a freeway lane. To put that number in perspective, that is about the same number of bicycles that cross the river into downtown at rush hour, (only those bike lanes ran less than 1% of the cost of the bypass.)

  6. How about combining all the options into a triple decker bridge.

    Six freeway lanes on top with no access points between SR 500 and Portland Boulevard. That way it would eliminate congestion around the bridge but not overload the freeway further south.

    The bottom could have light rail, pedestrian and local arterial lanes that extend Denver Avenue across the river to Vancouver. With grade level intersections to streets along the way.

    The middle would have dedicated freight only lanes with some connecting to local streets and others for through traffic.

    And, of course, the neighborhoods would get their 2% for local projects to mitigate the environmental justice issues. And all the levels of the bridge would include trees and planted swales to reduce or capture storm water runoff.

    Hey, we can find the money … cost is no object.

  7. Ross, you didn’t go far enough: Helicopters…

    You [used to, about 6 years ago] be able to charter a helicopter from downtown, (the parking garage next to ODOT has a heliport on it,) to the Portland Airport, (which is actually slightly farther away than downtown Vancouver,) for $40, (the idea being that it only took about 5 minutes, regardless of the traffic, and $40 isn’t that much more than a taxi… The guy was apparently doing a fairly good business with this, which is the trick to it: 5 customers an hour is $200/hr, which more than pays for the helicopter.) But the pilot normally flew the helicopter back empty, (people don’t tend to be late getting from the airport.) Now, if it flew full each way, than that is only $20 each way. $20/trip means that 50,000 trips a day is $1M/day, times ~250 workdays a year is a $250M/year. If you put $5B in the bank at 5% interest, then you collect $250M/year in interest, which means that you can afford the entire increase in capacity that the CRC project gets you, and it completely solves the congestion problems, (not just moves them to the Rose Quarter.) The only problem: spending $6B when a $5B solution would be better would actually make sense.

    Fortunately for us, cost is no object for the CRC project, the Tribune said so…

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