Staff Cops to $6B Price Tag for CRC


Jim Redden has a piece in the Trib this morning indicating that by the time you roll in all the interchange improvements, we may well be looking at $6B for the Columbia River Crossing.

It’s kind of ironic that the entire gap in funding for the Regional Transportation Plan is $6B, and we’re looking at dropping that much on one link in the system.

Now, I don’t necessarily think I want EVERY project in the RTP built, but basically we’re saying we could have the transportation system we desire if we had those funds available for the rest of the region.


83 responses to “Staff Cops to $6B Price Tag for CRC”

  1. Whatever the cost actually is I don’t see it as a panacea for I-5 congestion.

    Reasons:
    1. Other bottlenecks contribute to I-5 congestion. It just becomes most apparent at the bridges.
    2. If commercial development in both Clark County and Multnomah County continues to locate close to I-5 expect a return to congested conditions even after a CRC improvement. It may seem natural for office buildings to locate close to a corridor. However, intraday trips by working professionals or clients–this is distinct from commuter trips–will contribute to SOV traffic on the freeway.
    3. People living midway between 1-5 and 1-205 may elect to go on I-5 for longer intraday trips if they perceive that I-5 has been improved. E.g.,If I live at 50th and Hawthorne and need to get to Woodland, WA should I take I-205 or I-5?
    4. Even if there is a peak oil crisis I don’t believe that personal vehicles will be outmoded. Other fuels and means of power will be found. Local commerce is carried on by personal vehicles. Most people don’t have the time, in their busy schedules, to use public transit for anything more than a routine commute.

    I think this region needs to come up with a bottom line list of critical needs and try to figure how to get the most bang for the buck. If you took a look at how many bridges Portlanders use to cross from the Eastside to downtown, and then proposed that some of those crossings could be eliminated there would be a major outcry. By restricting the number of points at which the Columbia River can be crossed from Clark County to Portland to only two you have the same formula for frustration. If there is a bottom line need for another point to cross the Columbia–and I mean when the destinations of vehicles presently using the I-5 bridges is correctly determined–widening the CRC doesn’t make the first need go away. But providing a second option, assuming that it is well used, mitigates the problems with the first.

  2. People living midway between 1-5 and 1-205 may elect to go on I-5 for longer intraday trips if they perceive that I-5 has been improved. E.g.,If I live at 50th and Hawthorne and need to get to Woodland, WA should I take I-205 or I-5?

    I think the larger problem is that there are many trips into the Columbia Corridor where either bridge will work as well as trips from eastern Clark County to downtown Portland. Its not clear that congestion on the Banfield isn’t already driving some traffic from east Clark County off the I205 bridge onto the I5 bridge. And Clark County is sprawling further east so …

  3. So, does that mean a $6 toll, properly bonded, would allow the bridge to pay for itself?

    Because I think it’s pretty clear that the region needs to save its discretionary funding for other projects. A project like this clearly could pay for itself using tolling, and said tolls would probably reduce demand enough to allow it to also be an effective tool at fighting congestion (assuming, of course, that the light rail link is properly implemented).

  4. So, does that mean a $6 toll, properly bonded, would allow the bridge to pay for itself?

    Nowhere close. In fact, as I said elsewhere, I don’t think any toll would pay the full cost. At minimum, you have to toll I-205 as well.

    Just to put things in perspective. Using a standard mortgage calculator a 6 billion loan at 5% for 50 years would require a $27 million monthly payment. So with 3 million trips a month that would be a $9 toll in each direction. I doubt you can get 3 million people to pay it.

  5. Ross-

    I think we’re on the right track here, however.

    Maybe a bridge, if built right, can be bonded for 99 years rather than 50 years. That’d be a $6 toll.

    I think you’re right that I-205 would need to have a toll as well, but I think that would require a change in federal policy, which only currently allows tolls on new facilities.

  6. 99 years?! This bridge that exists isn’t 99 years old. Who is to say it isn’t going to need rebuilt a dozen times between now and then?

    The St Johns bridge just got redone for millions. A roadway bridge is going to need redone every 30-60 years for sure. The variable is how much will need to be done.

    It should be bonded for no more than 50 years. But even then, is it really going to be bonded? Or are the feds just gonna end up increasing debt to pay for something like this.

    Blagh. This whole thing needs re-thought. Arterials are needed, Vancouver and Portland need to act like partners and not like there is a GATE between the cities. There should be arterials between the two just like there are between east and west Portland. This attitude that they are two different cities is really gettin us into a mess if the area has to go dumping 6 bil on the stupid bridges.

    About 200,000 of the area residents are pushing it if they even use it once a month. The primary people messin this whole deal up are the Vancouver commuters. It’s been stated simply, the vast majority of congestion on I-5 at the bridge is local traffic going back and forth between the two cities. Most of that traffic are Vancouver originates.

    I digress, this is ridiculous. Someone needs to float the idea of a few arterial bridges and put a stop to this billion dollar nonsense. In addition, this billion dollar nonsense isn’t even a solution, it’s a friggin band aid.

  7. Adron-

    I don’t disagree. I’m just making the point that, if a 6 billion dollar bridge is what everybody wants, then the users will have to pay for it, and technically, that would be possible by bonding the tolls.

    I’m not saying it’s the best option.

    I completely agree with you that we should more or less leave the interstate bridges alone, and just build a new arterial bridge, of course with light rail, to help get some of that local traffic off the freeway system.

    …further, this would seem to dovetail completely with Metro’s new RTP approach of building a network of arterials. no?

  8. 99 years only cuts the payment to $25 million per month so you are still over $8 each direction. My guess is that you would need to toll people, not vehicles, which would lower the cost a little for the individual driver.

    But even then, is it really going to be bonded? Or are the feds just gonna end up increasing debt to pay for something like this.

    I think it is going to end up being mostly paid for by the federal government and there will be a limited toll to help pay the local match. But someone has to come up with that $9 per trip across the bridge.

  9. $6B huh? Is that a real number, or is it going to be $10B once they put it out for bid? (Ohh wait, the article says it was in last years dollars, so, yeah $10B it is.)

    Odd how they never mentioned this up in the public comment meetings, they always implied that it was $2B and the $6B was just a rumor…

  10. The CRC Task Force is telling everyone, that to understand this, first you have to believe in “Santa Claws, The Tooth Ferry and that there was a Real Superman”.

    Why do they keep on wanting to stretch the point. I believe in Santa Claws and the Tooth Ferry but do I have to believe in all three?

    These recommendations were never about reality.

  11. “$6B huh? Is that a real number, or is it going to be $10B once they put it out for bid? (Ohh wait, the article says it was in last years dollars, so, yeah $10B it is.)”

    It’s $6B in 2006 dollars. By the time it actually goes to the construction phase – 2010 – the cost will be higher simply because the cost of the materials will go up.

  12. I have read this blog quite a bit but never posted. I just think everyone is jumping to conclusions about price because you just don’t support the project. I believe the low number is $2 Billion for the entire project.

    Things that are not necessarily needed such as signature bridges, caps over I-5, and other amenities drive the price tag up over that. There is an article on clarkblog.org that references one of the CRC open houses and quotes the CRC as stating that the bridge alone will cost $1 to $1.2 billion and that the rest of the cost that has been discussed is for transit and interchanges. The interchanges need to be modified with any new bridge so you can not deduct that cost.

    I think it is good that the high number has been thrown out there for the public. It shows that the longer this region waits to address the problem, the higher the cost is going to be to fix it.

    Also, I believe I read that people would like the money that is going to this project to be distributed to the plan that Metro has for the region. Remember that Oregon would only get half of this total money because Washington is also a partner. So if you want to spend the money on other projects, it goes to Washington as well as Oregon, not all to Oregon.

  13. Commuter trains are starting to look REAL good right now. I hear Sound Transit has some equipment that they have leased to a commuter rail agency in VIRGINIA – why isn’t that equipment being used here in the same state?

    Oh, wait, commuter trains aren’t MAX.

  14. It shows that the longer this region waits to address the problem, the higher the cost is going to be to fix it.

    I don’t think it shows that at all. Certainly inflation will increase the cost, but it will also reduce the value of the dollars spent. Almost all these investments are based on projections that will prove to be wrong. We have no way of knowing what changes will occur in the next 10-20 years that might effect what solution is optimal. The later the decision gets made the more likely it is to match the actual need. Later, in this case, is better.

    I just think everyone is jumping to conclusions about price because you just don’t support the project. I believe the low number is $2 Billion for the entire project.

    I think there is some truth in that. But there was one point at which I was criticized for exaggerating a “billion dollar bridge”. That is now half the minimum price. But even a $2 billion bridge is going to cost $3 per trip at 3 million trips per month.

    Remember that Oregon would only get half of this total

    Actually, the question is whether it would even get that much. Whatever happens, it ought to be clear this is a Washington project with very little benefit to Oregon. If anyone is working this earmark it ought to be Bryan Baird and Patty Murray, not Earl Blumenauer and Ron Wyden.

  15. Erik,
    (Off subject, sorry) Speaking of trains, did you notice City of McMinnville authorized money for “wine/tourist train”. At the same meeting, it is full speed ahead for Newberg-Dundee Bypass.

  16. Yeah, I did.

    Maybe we should turn Yamhill County into the next Clark County – and then we can discuss boring a tunnel through Rex Hill; and a elevated viaduct over Tigard, and then widening I-5 through the Terwilliger Curves.

    Back north, I want to know why there is no serious discussion on commuter rail. We know it works (in Vancouver, BC, Everett-Seattle, Tacoma-Seattle, San Jose-San Francisco, Los Angeles) and is cost effective. We can use EXISTING infrastructure instead of having to build from scratch (like we would with MAX.) And, Sound Transit has a bunch of equipment that they ordered that they were never able to put into service, and as such the equipment is being leased to a transit agency in Virginia. Why isn’t it here in Southwest Washington (the one that doesn’t end with “DC”)?

  17. Erik –

    There was a study done of commuter rail. As I recall, the problem is one of freight congestion. And its important to remember, a good portion of the bridge traffic is going to Haydn Island, the Columbia Corridor, Rivergate, Swan Island etc, nowhere near downtown Portland.

  18. One thing is for certain. If all that was being discussed were light rail to Vancouver it wouldn’t matter what the cost.

    If it was anticipated that light rail alone to Vancouver will cost $10 billion most everyone on this blog would be saying what a good investment it would be, worth every penny, better than any other choice,etc etc.

    In fact most of you would prefer no freeway work or capacity increases at all. Like everywhere else in the region.

    So come clean folks and fess up.

    You want to stop the Columbis River Crossing if it adds lanes.
    You also want to stop the Dundee-Newberg bypass, the I-5 99 connector, any expressway in the Sunrise corridor, any 217 expansions, any Sellwood bridge replacement that has four lanes and any other vehicle related improvements.

    What else?
    Oh yeah, neglect the filling of pot holes too, worsening backlog in deferred road maintenance.

    Yet, somehow this all is part of designing a model transportation system.
    Sure it is.
    And when the 205 light rail/transit mall and Washington County commuter rail open that’s two more feathers in your planner’s cap.
    Too bad there were no public votes on either.

  19. You want …. You also want …

    I don’t know who “you” is, but I think you are seeing a reflection of your own ideological viewpoint in other people. There isn’t any agreement on most of those issues. People are generally looking for solutions that result in a better place to live.

    If it was anticipated that light rail alone to Vancouver will cost $10 billion most everyone on this blog would be saying what a good investment

    I’m not convinced light rail to Vancouver is a good investment even at its current price. There needs to be come commitment to high-quality transit and compact urban land use in Clark County. I think the city of Vancouver has that commitment, but I don’t think they are calling the shots in Clark County at this point. And a light rail line that serves park and rides along SR500 is not worth any investment for people in Oregon or for people in Clark County for that matter.

    Oh yeah, neglect the filling of pot holes too, worsening backlog in deferred road maintenance.

    The State is spending money on new facilities like the interchange at Jackson School Road and Highway 26 instead of doing basic maintenance on existing highways. The result is there are a lot of expensive reconstruction projects in the future that wouldn’t have been necessary. Of course, in your ideological mirror, any effort to “fix it first” would likely appear as obstruction of plans for new roads.

  20. Be,
    Count me as one who would want to stop the (now) approaching $600 million Newberg-Dundee Bypass. But, it is not as you would suggest. A very quality 5 lanes through Dundee for less than $50 million would realistically do the job. The congestion will never be solved, so the choice is cost. $500-600 million for a 5 minute ride through Yamhill County is “over-the-top”. Just for land acquisition the cost is pegged at $117 million.

  21. Ross,
    You’re good at missing, shifting, bobbing and weaving around every point Imake.

    The “you” is the “activists, planners, polticians” hell bent on stopping the Columbis River Crossing if it adds lanes.
    You also want to stop the Dundee-Newberg bypass, the I-5 99 connector, any expressway in the Sunrise corridor, any 217 expansions, any Sellwood bridge replacement that has four lanes and any other vehicle related improvements.

    Instead of talking about that list and the obstructionism it faces you want to know who “you” is.
    Pretend like “you” is Rex and all his friends.
    Now respond to my point you are avoiding.

    People are NOT “generally looking for solutions that result in a better place to live”
    What a smoke screen that is.
    “People”, or “you” are blocking every road.

    “I’m not convinced light rail to Vancouver is a good investment even at its current price.”

    So would you support a new Comubia Crossing without it? Now that’s a laugh.

    “commitment to high-quality transit and compact urban land use in Clark County”

    We don’t even have that here. It’s all an illusion. What part of our Metro region is Supperior to Clark county?
    The little TODs or “stations” or “Rounds”?
    Give me a break. The vast majority of our metro region a rat race without any cohesive deteckable plan whatsoever and certainly no better than Clark County which had no Metro “guiding” it for 20 years.
    You call Vancouver having “commitment” to light rail? What a lovely word. More like they are schemeing get around the voters just as happened here.
    Wow, you found the State spending money on a new interchange at Jackson School Road.
    What a cherry pick. The State, counties and cities have all deferred maintenence in favor of your favorite things. Look at the funding sources for the commuter rail. The back log in Portland is huge and getting bigger. Yet recently PDOT diverted $3.5 million to bail out the TIF floundering streets in SoWa.

    My “ideological mirror” ?
    Nice weave.

    You’re looking through a microscope attempting to view the moon.

    Where do you live?

  22. Ben says: “You’re good at missing, shifting, bobbing and weaving around every point Imake”

    What is your point exactly Ben? Have you made one?

    Maybe you should elucidate your “points” a little better, because reading your posts, you don’t really say anything other than make sweepingly generic and acidly snide accusations on entire populations of people before subsequently tossing aside any thought or idea that does not fit your apparantly narrow viewpoint.

    It’s ok to be subjective, but usually subjective opinions are accompanied with an actual “point” or ideas of your own.

  23. Ruh,
    I agree with you but the

    “$500-600 million for a 5 minute ride through Yamhill County is “over-the-top”. Just for land acquisition the cost is pegged at $117 million.”

    is an ODOT et al method being used to kill any road remedy.

    Spend years designing the most expensive and disruptive plan possible then punt when objections surface and do noithing.

    There is an alternative plan far less expensive requiring far less right of way purchase and it comes out at the I-5 Donald exit.
    No massive bridges over wetlands either. As is the case in the ODOT plan that will never get built.
    DC, geeze, what a funny guy.

  24. Ben,

    As one person who has come to believe the CRC replacement is not a worthwhile project I can vouch that many are oppposed to it who do not happen to be in “activists, planners and politicians” group. I guess, because you are new to this forum, you have not seen many of the other posts of the frequent contributors. In fact, some who oppose the CRC are in favor of greater freight and auto mobility but view the CRC improvement as a dead end. One group favors a multimodal bridge downstream from the I-5–so there you have your added lane capacity for autos and trucks. But being multi-modal it could accomodate bikes, pedestrians and commuter rail plus freight and AMTRAK.

    I’ve been taking to task some of those in that “establishment,” because the costs of their proposals are going too high and their vision is, sometimes, unfair to those people who have to rely on private autos.

    To put it in a historical perspective I did happen to oppose the 1990 Transportation Plan which would have built several freeways through Portland, according to Robert Moses’ vision. And I generally was in favor the MAX concept in its early days, though not too active in it. But now I tend to think there is a group that is convinced, and not open to contrary evidence, that all of these publicly funded projects are worth the investment. I also tend to see the CRC task force in the same view: Planners too willing to spend the public’s money without examining what will really work best in the long run.

    So, you need to know the individuals that you are categorizing. If this revised cost estimate is accurate–and we are only assuming $6 billion as the very highest figure–I think it will arouse greater opposition. But that doesn’t mean that I am opposed to adding more lanes–just do it in a place that provides more diversity of choices.

  25. Ben: You aren’t going to get anywhere with Ross. He doesn’t have access to any data that is used to make decision around the region. He also doesn’t have any formal education in traffic/transit engineering or in land use planning, and he doesn’t have any actual experience in working in those fields. You might as well debate astrophysics with him. Does anyone posting here actually know what they are talking about?

    To all folks still insisting that tolls will be required to pay 100% for the bridge. Understand that the federal government (and OR/WA DOTs too) will be paying for a lot of the construction. Is is possible that I won’t ever have to read any more back of the napkin calcs saying this toll or that toll based on $6b?

    Can someone please tell me how exactly an arterial bridge will “work”. Only 15% of trips across the river are 5 miles or less.

    West side bypass is: a) DOA the last time it was proposed, b) DOA if it is proposed again and c) DOESN’T SOLVE ANY OF THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE I-5 CROSSING!

  26. Since we’re having to quote what we feel is or isn’t reasonable:

    1. I am opposed to the Newberg-Dundee Bypass; not because it adds capacity; but rather the design of it. I would not be opposed to widening 99W through Dundee (a much more cost effective project) or what is termed the “Regional Bypass option” (which offers significantly greater benefit for about the same cost).

    2. I am not opposed to pursuing the CRC project. I am opposed to being forced to have light rail included. If LRT happens to be the best option, fine. But far too often LRT is shoved down our throats with every other option taken off the table well before any serious discussion is had.

    Ross – I agree that a significant amount of Vancouver traffic is bound for North Portland; but so is to downtown. Commuter Rail will pull traffic off of I-5 and it’s a known – look at the number of C-Tran express busses that run daily (and on I-5)? Surely there are many others that don’t use C-Tran but drive, so commuter rail would be a valuable and inexpensive way to remove this traffic – and create room for more local trips.

    Is it the end-all solution? No, of course not; but it’s a cost effective tool that can be employed NOW at little cost – and a tiny fraction compared to the billions to effectively rebuild 10 miles of I-5 plus a bridge.

    I understand “freight congestion” is an issue; but having personally observed the route, I don’t think that the level of “freight congestion” makes for a fatal flaw towards commuter rail in the corridor. Transfer runs (trains that run between Lake or Willbridge Yard in Portland, and Vancouver Yard in Vancouver), could easily be re-scheduled outside of the rush hour; so that the only freight trains are those that originate in Lake or Willbridge to points north (i.e. Seattle, Tacoma) or east (i.e. Pasco, mid-west). A third mainline could easily be built between the Willamette River drawbridge and East St. Johns in the massive cut; and it’s probably possible even further north up to the North Portland Harbor (Oregon Slough) drawbridge. But that isn’t necessary now – all that is needed is a few locomotives, passenger cars, and a few station platforms and some park-and-ride lots. And these could be built early on as “temporary” facilities – to be rebuilt later as traffic and growth warrant.

    Mr. Tired: Why is the westside bypass DOA?

  27. Ron,
    I appreciate your response, however, I am fairly well versed on the various CRC options as well as the opinions and discussion on this blog and in the greater transportation arena.
    I can also appreciate that there are “individuals” with variant opinions both inside and outside the Rex Burkholder chorus.
    However, by in large, that dominating chorus plays one verse and one verse only.
    No roads,more rail transit and high density development (often with public money).
    The problem is it doesn’t work as an alternative to accommodating growth in vehicular traffic.
    It’s no alternative at all, despite the utopian desire to make it so.
    The CRC process was crippled from the outset, just as every other road related project is.
    By those who seek to advance, by any means, a network of rail transit and high density development at ALL costs.
    The CRC and a good chunk of adjacent I-5 should be designed and built without at rail transit accessory at all. Traffic capacity is the problem and it should be further accommodated. Congestion won’t go away but growth needs to be faced head on and further accommodated throughout the region.
    Opposition that speaks about more capacity not being “the” remedy is true hypocrisy. More capacity will HELP accommodate the rising traffic. It doesn’t have to be “the” remedy, only help.
    In stark contrast is the push for light rail, which will neither be “the” remedy or help accommodate the growing traffic capacity demand at all. Zero.
    Spending a billion or three for light rail to service Clark county is pure folly and will do NOTHING to accommodate the growing needs of vehicular traffic. No matter what Rex’s chorus sings.
    The $6 billion is a scary number. I can easily predict it means the outcome being forget everything but let’s get light rail across the river.
    Same goes for every other road related project.
    The Sunrise corridor will never be a freeway or expressway moving traffic through that long and growing area. It will be no improvement or more choke point streetscape boulevarding with ped/bike and, maybe some rail transit.
    That’s the agenda around here.
    The obstructionist activism seeking to block the Sellwood bridge from being rebuilt with four lanes is another perfect example.
    So not matter how well reasoned some contrary evidence may be, by various individuals, it won’t mean shit when it comes down to what gets funded and built.
    There was plenty of contrary input prior to the airport Max, Interstate Max, 205 Max/Transit mall and commuter rail, including a couple votes against more rail. None of it meant shit.
    Anyone who has been here for a while must know this.
    If the same chorus existed back before the Sam Jackson bridge was built it would never have been built, and chorus members would be bragging about stopping it, just like the Mt. Hood Freeway and WSBP.

  28. The west side bypass is doa for the same reasons that it was doa in the past. Which are primarily that it doesn’t comply with oregon rule 12: transportation. This reason was (I believe) the primary argument made by 1000 Friends of Oregon (and others) to defeat the proposal. Simply, it causes a real problem in relation to land use on the west side. That is, it opens up thousands of acres for development, development of the kind explicity not wanted by Metro – strictly auto oriented. Plus, there are engineering aspects that pose problems – many of them related to the type of facility needed and proximity of forest park, the columbia and wildlife refuges in WA. Furthermore, the bypass was an option studied by the CRC staff and Task Force. It was concluded that the bypass (at least in terms of removing congestion from I-5) does not actually do that. It also places politically non-starting congestion (esp. trucks) through downtown vancouver, an issue which the city is already struggling with. As you seem to be aware, the ability of the region to garner more funds for 100% new freeway capacity is very slim. If you are familiar with the some of the older reports (not sure exactly where they can be found) done on the idea, you will see the arguments laid out better than I can make them.

    Regards to LRT over the Columbia. Many arguments can be made for and against. But, in the end, I expect the following to happen: LRT will be the choice made, and for the following reasons: reliability, availability of funds, political will, travel times, designated ROW, operating costs potential for economic growth, and existing infrastructure (not necessarily in that order). I don’t necessarily agree with the logic, but if I were a betting man, this is where i would put my chips. If you oppose it that’s fine, but at least consider yourself lucky to be living in region that will be receiving massive federal money (don’t call it a subsidy, we’ve been doing it for years) that will create jobs. It’s not really any different than the Iraq war as subsidy for defense contractors located in CA and TX (and elsewhere). Gotta love DC!

    I’m going crazy reading all the commuter rail nonsense! What a complete waste of money. It works on the east coast and that’s it. (and only because all the rail was already there)

  29. Is is possible that I won’t ever have to read any more back of the napkin calcs saying this toll or that toll based on $6b?

    Someone is going to be paying that bill and if its the federal government it is obviously going to be borrowed. Whatever isn’t paid by tolls is going to be paid in taxes.

    That is, it opens up thousands of acres for development, development of the kind explicity not wanted by Metro

    Not to mention illegal under state land use laws. 1000 Friends has been notably successful pointing this out in court when local governments like Metro choose to ignore it.

    It works on the east coast and that’s it

    Commuter rail works elsewhere as well.

  30. I’m going crazy reading all the commuter rail nonsense! What a complete waste of money. It works on the east coast and that’s it. (and only because all the rail was already there)

    Let’s see…

    Vancouver, BC (West Coast Express)
    Seattle/Everett/Tacoma (Sounder)
    San Francisco/San Jose (CalTrain; this has been in non-stop operation for decades)
    Los Angeles Basin (Metrolink)
    San Diego (Coaster)
    Albuquerque (RailRunner)

    Plus Salt Lake City is constructing a line right now.

    Commuter Rail works because it uses existing facilities – surely everyone here is aware that the Portland metro area has plenty of railroads, right? (If not, here’s a decent map from Union Pacific’s website: http://www.uprr.com/aboutup/maps/graphics/propmap3.gif)

    Now, not all of these railroads are suitable for commuter service (i.e. much of the trackage in Rivergate) – but the mainlines certainly are; especially if they already host Amtrak service (BNSF mainline north to Seattle and east to Pasco; UP mainline south to Eugene; UP mainline east to The Dalles had Amtrak service until the late ’90s). The line to Scappoose/St. Helens could be easily made ready for commuter rail; the line from Milwaukie to Sherwood likely could be too. (To Newberg/McMinnville requires crossing Rex Hill which makes it more difficult but not impossible.)

    So, why haven’t we started commuter rail in Portland, given that Portland likes to claim how innovative it is with transit? We have nothing!! We should have had commuter rail between Portland and Salem 20 years ago. We should have had some sort of commuter rail to the north side of the Columbia 10 years ago – at least to Camas/Washougal. Clark County owns a branchline to Battle Ground which passes through areas that are being developed right now – commuter rail could easily take advantage of that growth and move people.

    Instead, we are stuck on MAX for everything. Well, MAX, and Portland Streetcar. If it’s LRT, it’s gold. Let’s face it – MAX isn’t going to work for long distances – 20 miles is a tiring commute in a painful seat like on a MAX train (which, by the way, is identical to a bus seat). We have an opportunity waiting that could cost $200 Million (I think it’s much less, personally) but instead we want the $6 billion golden roller coaster.

  31. Can someone please tell me how exactly an arterial bridge will “work”. Only 15% of trips across the river are 5 miles or less.

    Perhaps you can explain what you think the relationship between those two apparently unrelated facts is? There are plenty of people that use the Morrison Bridge, for instance, for trips over 5 miles. Probably even for some trips that use the I5 bridge over the Columbia.

  32. Mr. Tired,

    You are certainly asking the right question with “Can someone please tell me how exactly an arterial bridge will “work”. Only 15% of trips across the river are 5 miles or less.”

    I will submit the following points, and allow readers to analyze and critique them.

    1. If commercial property continues to densify along the I-5 corridor within Clark County I think we can expect a resumption of congestion, even with increased capacity, in the CRC. Locating along a freeway gives business properties (i.e. office complexes, retail centers) high visibility–good for business, but also produces an increase in traffic using the freeway. Bellevue, Washington is a perfect example. I don’t know where this idea that the Portland I-5 is the most congested came from; my experience in the Seattle and Bellevue areas (1998-2002) seemed to evidence far worse congestion, both on I-5 and I-405.

    What is the answer? Don’t concentrate everything that produces traffic in those areas. Thus, opening up a new route, such as in west Vancouver, and planning for density there, would take pressure off I-5. This is assuming that density will happen, which seems to be the one most certain trend.

    2. The “West Arterial” route “could” be a major new route, without the construction of the unpopular Western Bypass Freeway. Connecting to Hwy, 30 is, admittedly, the most thorny issue. Some propose to do this via North Columbia Blvd and then a bridge near Linnton. I think, as an added option, a bridge following the BNSF route, all the way to Hwy 30. This, then can go to both Front Ave. and Yeon Ave. Yeon goes to I-405 and then connects to US 26. So that provides another way to get from Clark County to both Northwest Portland and to US 26 without even getting on the I-5 in Oregon. The more northerly bridge option would provide convenient access from Clark County to points north on Hwy 30, such from Linnton to Rainier. Any farther north and the Lewis and Clark Bridge probably is a better option.

    3. If high density development is the credo of new urbanism planning I think that underutilized waterfront property will be where it most likely occurs. I think we can see that happening now in Portland–the Pearl District is reaching a saturation point. Now the old boundary has been jumped and a new high rise is being built north of the Fremont Bridge on Front Ave–Pacifica Tower. http://pearldistrict.com/pearl-district-pacifica-tower-homes.html Isn’t this trend going to continue? There are more pockets of vacant land north along Front Ave. It will continue until interest rates go way up. This couild also happen in the west section of Vancouver. The big low rise condo development east of I-5 along the Columbia is a ’90’s style project. The west side could be high density, but it does depend on what Vancouver’s government wants. But, consider that it is riverfront property, perhaps even more spectacular than the Willamette. There have been a number of sizeable buildings in downtown Vancouver lately, so I think a trend is now in place. I’m trying to think a couple of decades ahead.

    4. 15% of truck traffic is a lot different than 15% of general traffic, since a truck takes up two or three times as much space. Much of the rationale of a Western Arterial is to move freight traffic. So, can high density urbanism and traditional industry coexist in NW Portland? Working on high rise condos in Seattle, I saw all sorts of unusual and unexpected zoning and siting events, so I think: yes. Will there be unhappy opinions, too? Undoubtedly. Re; the 15% figure: would not this depend on how many destinations can be served by the Western Arteial?

    5. The Western Arterial Route could, assuming high density in both Northwest Front Ave and west Vancouver, be a logical place for a streetcar route. It could also be an improved AMTRAK corridor. If one judges by aesthetics, the BNSF bridge is in more dire need than the I-5 bridges; won’t it come due for replacement soon? Also, Interstate MAX to Vancouver could just as well go across the Arterial route. And many people think that Hayden Island needs its own connection to Vancouver. Why not roll all of these into one project on the W.A route? That seems much less disruptive to existing property in downtown Vancouver than the other proposals.

    6. Will an expanded and improved CRC eventually return to a congested state? Well, both the Banfield and the Sunset highway have, even after the cure of the MAX system. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, in those cases; but it is a fact. But, in regards to the I-5, if so many billions (2,3,4,5,or6) will be spent why continue to concentrate it in that one area? Why not open up a new area and a new route, instead?

    7.The sluggishness of traffic flow increases exponentially with the number of vehicles on the road. Traveling at 5 mph is, admittedly a pain in the a–. But, y’know, thirty or thirty five ain’t too bad, especially if it is just at rush hours. So even if there is only a fifteen percent decrease, that might be enough to bring speeds up to a tolerable level. And pollution is more than just a function of miles traveled; idling in traffic for long lengths of time makes a lot of pollution.

    8. If west Vancouver were to develop into mixed use, high density it could encourage AMTRAK travel. The station is right there, though now not very well used. Additionally, if MAX connects there people coming to shows at the Expo center could take AMTRAK to Vancouver and then MAX to Expo. Throw some hotels in the mix.

    I know the option was on the table, from looking at the old I-5 partnership site. Maybe, we’re all wet…what I have said is contingent on Vancouver wanting to do it. Call me quixotic, but if no one begins to rein in spending on public works we will have a dangerous federal deficit situation. When you multiply the expensive projects that many wish to see in this area–built largely with federal money–by the number of other urban areas wanting the same, it is a big issue. A bad scenario? I’m not sure but take a look at this opinion:
    http://www.dailyreckoning.com/Empireofdebt.html

  33. We all know that traffic problems exist on I5. One easy way to help relieve the congestion is to let the semi tractor and trailers use the carpool lane. When traffic is stopped, how long does it take a semi to get moving again? Pulling 60 to 80K of weight takes time.

    The semi’s also take up at least two, if not three car lengths. If the elected employees in office really wanted to solve some problems, instead of posturing for future votes, they could start to do so.

    At least two more new bridges need to be built across the river, one to the west and one to the east.

  34. So, why haven’t we started commuter rail in Portland, given that Portland likes to claim how innovative it is with transit

    How does commuter rail serve to achieve a compact region? During the Region 2040 process there was real resistance from places like McMinnville and St. Helens to being “satellite” communities for metropolitan Portland. A small town with a commuter rail station quickly becomes a target for development that is out of character with the existing community. In the Chicago area, people have been buying and tearing down perfectly sound homes to put up McMansions in communities that have commuter rail stations.

    That doesn’t mean commuter rail should be ruled out, but there are barriers to implementing it that go beyond having track and buying vehicles. You have to provide a way for people to get to and from the train. That includes parking if they are using automobiles. If they are walking that means pedestrian facilities. If they are using other transit, it means providing other transit and access to that transit. If they are riding bikes, you need to provide bike facilities.

    The issue is what kind of places are we creating, not how do we move people and vehicles. And in the case of commuter rail, that is not just a decision for people in Portland but for those communities commuter rail will serve. They may not want to become bedroom communities for Portland.

  35. One easy way to help relieve the congestion is to let the semi tractor and trailers use the carpool lane

    I think that is right. In fact, it may be trucks should have priority in those lanes if we are really concerned about freight movement.

  36. Indeed, at MPAC last week, I made the point that commuters have a lot more choices in their travel behavior than freight does. I think giving certain kinds of freight priority on the freeway network makes a lot of sense.

  37. Buses and trucks should have priority on ANY freeway around here that has congestion. Sometimes when I walk over I-405 I have this (very selfish) fantasy about what a great asset our freeway system is, and how nice it would be if all of the private cars were kicked off and the freeways could only be used by buses and trucks.

    Think something akin to this might occur someday if the region is choking on traffic and a somewhat draconian solution is called for?

  38. Nick: If that were to happen, I think you’d end up seeing the reverse of “white flight.” You’d end up with the poorest residents living in the suburbs. It’s probably not the best way to solve congestion issues.

  39. Dave:

    Isn’t that what’s happening now to a certain extent? Poorer residents are now moving out to East Multnomah County, for example, from the inner Portland neighborhoods, to a certain extent.

  40. “commuters have a lot more choices in their travel behavior than freight does.”

    That’s a fully baked presumtion.

    “I think giving certain kinds of freight priority on the freeway network makes a lot of sense.”

    That’s another fantasy non-alternative to the added capacity so deperately needed.
    Where are the lesser priority drivers supposed to go while freight has priority?

    A big chunk of freight priority is avaialable now. It’s called “night”.
    Anyone ever travel the freeways between Detroit and Chicago at night. The massive numbers of semis
    shows it’s taken advantage of big time.

    “,,someday if the region is choking on traffic”

    “Someday” is here at several locations and times. The “draconian solution” is more of the same. More light rail, more high density development and no more roads. All of which feeds our worsening traffic.

    There is no sign of any shift so things will be getting much worse for decades.
    It’s too late for any genuine “solutions” or any smaller remedies to help some.

    Anything percieved as such and on the books or in planning is nothing but illusioinary trickery.

  41. I am most definitely NOT in favor of more light rail as a draconian solution. In fact, light rail has been part of the problem, IMO.

    Even though I was jusr half-joking about kicking the private cars off the freeways, I do foresee in the future some kind of congestion pricing as some kind of “draconian” solution–also, appropriating freeway lanes for the exclusive use of express buses.

  42. I think that the opposition to commuter rail is, well, excuses.

    Let’s look at McMinnville, as just one example. Perched at the eastern end of downtown, at Third Street, is the 1914 era railroad depot. The platform still exists (although it lines up with a siding that has been long removed; but the main track is still there.) McMinnville finally agreed to pledge $5,000 towards studying a wine train. McMinnville is well aware that it is a bedroom community, and is trying to capitalize on the fact that it is the capital of Oregon’s wine country.

    Let’s look at Camas and Washougal – both communities have a freeway and both communities are bedroom communities to both Vancouver and Portland. And the railroad goes right through downtown.

    Are you saying that the “McMansions” will only be built when commuter rail comes to town? They ALREADY exist!!

    Bike facilities: Are you telling me that bike racks are prohibitively expensive? Or sidewalks? (Which already exist in the central business districts of the three above-mentioned communities, anyways.)

    Bike lanes are plentiful in Vancouver and the eastern communities’ arterial/collector streets. What more do we need?

    Again – we have an opportunity to build something that is cost effective; but we are demanding the gold-plated solution or nothing at all. If it isn’t MAX it isn’t good enough (we compromised with Portland Streetcar, only because some people felt that MAX would degrade their communities after the Rockwood, Hollywood, Gateway and Lloyd District experiences.) Look at the Seattle area – has commuter rail caused a degradation in the “quality of life”?

    If we want to force “compact communities” then we need to start with housing costs, not transportation. We need to include ALL classes to live in the compact regions; instead of catering to those who can afford $600,000 condos (for two bedrooms, which also excludes many families.) We also need to include the services that ALL classes need – that means, if we have to permit a Wal-Mart downtown, so be it. Or a full-service Target or a Fred Meyer. Instead we want only the upscale residents and the upscale businesses; and everything else gets shoved to…well…Rockwood, Lents, and the other less desirable neighborhoods.

    Or, we must work to ensure that all residents have a livable wage. Since I work for one of Portland’s two utility providers, I’m sure there is no objection for all of your electric rates to increase from 7 cents/kwh to 15 cents/kwh, to pay for my increased wages – right?

  43. “We need to include ALL classes to live in the compact regions; instead of catering to those who can afford $600,000 condos”

    This is another topic worth discussing, but somewhat off the subject here. I would like to discuss it further. Having worked in construction most of my life I cannot see why high rise condos need to be priced so darn high, except for the fact that the market allows it. If they were so expensive to build they would never have been considered suitable for Housing Authority of Portland or Union retirement complexes.

  44. It is a $9 toll, if we tolled it to pay for itself. I think ultimately we have to look at it that way, even if that won’t be the real toll. Just because someone else is paying for it, doesn’t mean that shouldn’t ask the question, are those trips worth $9 each way? For instance, a trip to Hayden Island to avoid sales tax is only worth that if you are spending more than $250. Would companies go to a 4 day work week for $18/week? Etc. Forget about how exactly the money changes hands, society is ultimately going to end up paying $9 each way for those trips, and we can not forget that. Also, we are forgetting a much more important point: The current bridge can easily move 100,000 people/day, (it moves more than that today, but not easily.) What this new bridge gives us is the ability to move an addition 50,000. So from a marginal perspective, we are spending $6B to move an additional 50,000 people, so if we could figure out which people those are, and charge them $27 each way, that would actually be fairer than billing the people that were there first…

    Ben, you left out the other part of how they move freight near Detroit: Helicopters. During the day the traffic is so bad, that a lot of factories have helicopters on call in case they didn’t get enough parts the night before. As such, it isn’t surprising that the trucks move at night, they don’t move during the day, even if they try. Detroit, Iraq, and National Forests are the only places I know of where people use helicopters for freight on a regular basis. Having spend a year in Detroit, I’d compare it more to Iraq than the National Forest.

    As for commuter rail, I have to agree with Ross about creating satellite communities, in many cases. However, when you look at how much a commuter rail line would cost, ($100M assuming something similar to Washington County,) and how many people it would move, (3k-4k per weekday) and compare those numbers to the CRC, ($2000M-$6000M, with the approximately 50k increase in capacity that the new bridge will give us,) then commuter rail costs somewhere between 20% and 83% of what the CRC will cost on a marginal per trip basis. Which means that if the CRC project makes sense, commuter rail definitely does. Now, part of my problem is that I don’t see the CRC project being worth the money, (some truck trips are worth $27, but that is about it,) so comparing commuter rail to a bad idea and coming to the conclusion that it is good is very much a straw man argument…

  45. Are you telling me that bike racks are prohibitively expensive? Or sidewalks?

    I thought you lived in Tualatin. Does your house have a sidewalk in front of it? I don’t think bike racks are going to bust the bank. But have to tried riding a bike to the Tigard Transit Center? More to the point in places like McMinnville is the likelihood that people will drive to the train depot, including trips from surrounding communities.

    McMinnville is well aware that it is a bedroom community

    I don’t think it is true. The fact is McMinnville wants to remain separate from Portland. Or at least it did.

    Are you saying that the “McMansions” will only be built when commuter rail comes to town?

    Not hardly. Are you saying that easy access to jobs in Portland won’t result in a different pattern of development?

    that means, if we have to permit a Wal-Mart downtown, so be it. Or a full-service Target or a Fred Meyer

    There is a Fred Meyer near downtown and a Safeway. And “full-service” Targets and Wal-marts aren’t generally located downtown regardless of what is “permitted”.

    some people felt that MAX would degrade their communities after the Rockwood, Hollywood, Gateway and Lloyd District experiences.

    I don’t know what to say to the claim that light rail “degraded” the Lloyd Center area. You must not have lived here before Max was built. I can’t speak to the others, but I believe Hollywood and Gateway have also both experienced a renaissance.

    I think that the opposition to commuter rail is, well, excuses.

    Fine. I think you keep minimizing the costs while exaggerating its benefits. But I also think we should continue to look at opportunities to expand commuter rail. I hope the Washington County line is successful enough to provoke a look at extensions elsewhere.

  46. What are the accepted (are there any) thresholds of population before commuter trains (heavy rail) become a possibility? McMinnville is tossing the subject around. At this point it seems totally out of the question, given the low population on route.

  47. 1) I have to laugh at how low-income housing is built downtown, and the poor people don’t have anyplace suitable to shop. How about subsidizing construction of a Winco for them, also?

    2) Portland Metro is not suited for ANY type of rail operation, by virtue of its layout and densities. We are a BUS region, pure and simple. Let’s leave rail to NY, SF and Chicago, etc. I’ve even read the Sound Transit commuter rail in Seattle has not met ridership projections.

  48. The Washington County Commuter rail will cost far more than it’s stated cost. The books were well cooked to get the fed funding. The real cost will be in excess of $180 Million with tremendous annual subsidy (and growing) needed to keep it running.

    Light rail did not spur a “renaissance” at either Lloyd, Gateway or Hollywood. It was massive public subsidies through Urban renewal, tax abatements and TOD millions.
    Blight and crime were absolutely predominate along the Eastide MAX as demonstrated by the recent creation of the Rockwood Urban Renewal District (public millions) to deal with it.
    Gresham Station couldn’t even build out right there at the light rail station. Metro recently found a California Teacher Pension funded developer to take their last two parcels for free (along with other subsidies)to promote a “renaissance” on two parcels they have owned for years. I can here it now. After those two parcels are built out, with enormous public cost,
    Ross will be repeating Metro-TriMet propoganda that light rail triggered it.
    It’s happening right now with the 205 light rail.
    Upon approval officials touted that the new line would “spur developement along 82nd avenue” A couple weeks later those same officials approved a $25 million Urban Renewal plan to do the “spurring”. Further vanquishing the coffers of Clackamas County basic services for decades to come, in order to pump money into the surroundings of an auto-oriented shopping mall.

    Nice planning. Real honest too.

    “I hope the Washington County line is successful enough to provoke a look at extensions elsewhere.”

    “Hope”???

    That’s a hoot. You haven’t grasped how things work around here have you?

    TriMet has already prepared their declaration of success to promote more of the same. Whether or not it is, doesn’t matter.

    The most germane question in all of this is will these projects help with the rising congestion problem? No is the answer.
    Light rail, commuter rail and TODs may be the agenda around here, and the word “alternative” ushers them along, but let’s not play act anymore.
    This may be “alternative” but it is NOT a SUBSTITUTE for added road capacity and does not in any way accomodate the needs of traffic growth.

    These alternatives are nothing but a smoke screen and the means to ignore 95% of our transporation needs. Traffic.

    Look at the push to change the CRC to a light rail/transit crossing only.
    Now that’s a good plan for traffic. Perfect.

  49. Look North!

    I did some research to compare both the Interstate Bridge and the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge being built up in Tacoma, WA.

    Interesting factoids: our I-5 bridge is a 3,500 ft span and the predicted costs for a 6-thru lane bridge is between $2 and $6 billion.

    The Tacoma Narrows Bridge: a 5,400 ft long (2,800 ft main span), 5 lanes total, very nice SUSPENSION bridge (which typically cost more than truss & causeway types), and 3.4 miles of highway improvements. In addition, this new bridge will work in conjunction with the existing Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which means they don’t need to build such a large new bridge, further reducing costs (while maintaining the capacity).

    Total cost for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: $849 million.

    I think we should just hire the state of washington to build this one; it would seem to be a lot cheaper!

    Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:TacomaNarrowsBridges2006.jpg

  50. I think we should just hire the state of washington to build this one;

    Who is we? The I5 bridge is largely a WashDOT project both in inception and implementation. That’s a large reason why it is so out of control.

  51. “McMinnville is tossing the subject around. At this point it seems totally out of the question, given the low population on route.”

    “Portland Metro is not suited for ANY type of rail operation, by virtue of its layout and densities. We are a BUS region, pure and simple. Let’s leave rail to NY, SF and Chicago, etc. I’ve even read the Sound Transit commuter rail in Seattle has not met ridership projections.”

    Yes, we’re a relatively small city of sophisticates–or wannabee sophisticates. I agree getting carried away on commuter rail is inappropriate. The Gresham MAX started because of a “use-it-or-lose” situation with Dept of Transportation funds. I’m not going to argue with that or the Westside line. And for some behemoth cities their commuter rail projects may be fine.

    Here we need the most cost-effective model we can come up with. With local production of the Streetcar we should be able to come up with ways to keep the costs down to a reasonable level and increase rider capacity. This would be a true pioneering spirit–not aping Big City methods and claimimg we have the solution for everyone else.

  52. Hmm. In response to the ‘build more lanes!’ argument, please list one city (in the world) that has successfully built its way out of congestion.

    Just one.

    thank you.

  53. “please list one city (in the world) that has successfully built its way out of congestion”

    Boy, that’s a tough one Jennifer. Did you get that from a PSU class or a Metro coucilor?

    Actually there are many cities who do afar bettr job of keeping pace with the growth in traffic capacity demands.
    “Build ther way out of congestion”? That’s a Metro favorite. But there are many examples where congestion was releived to varying degrees.
    I would say Tualatin successfully “built a major intersection out of congestion”. The Bridgeport Village interchange/exit/intersections improvements, paid for by the developers, made the prior congestion go away. That doesn’t mean forever though.
    Metro, and apparently you too, thinks that growing traffic capacity demands don’t require any added capacity.
    Sort of the total opposite to “building our way out of congestion”, by deliberatly making congestion worse, by not building any new capacity.
    Is that a good plan?
    Not so much.

  54. Two billion of the six billion dollars is to build the light rail component of the bridge for Max to cross the river into Vancouver. These costs MUST be paid for by transit riders, NOT motorists. So let’s calculate, that would equal maybe a $4.00 surcharge per passenger in addition to the regular fare for a new Clark County transit zone. And with only 200 or so bicyclists crossing the river on a daily basis, the toll that MUST be charged for bicyclists to pay for their portion of the infrastructure would probably exceed $10.00 per crossing.

  55. Actually, Terry, the transit portion is $5.9999999999 billion. The road only costs a buck. How terrible this all is! Motorists being burned alive to pay for a toy train that will sink in the water once a ship hits the bridge!

    (or an airplane… you never know when Al-Qaida is going to commandeer one of those F-15 fighter jets @PDX and start bombing our infrastructure!)

  56. Ben: I didn’t say build our way out of a single intersection, I’m taking about an entire city. Without using mass transit.

    LA? Seattle? Houston? Phoenix? (which is now proposing a 24-lane stretch of I-10) Toronto? (wait, they have the most extensive vintage streetcar network in NA) NYC? (oops, subway) Boston? (ditto) Anything?!

    Haven’t ANY large metro areas of 2+ million people addressed their transportation needs by only building freeway lanes – and succeeding?

    I am rather doubtful on this one.

    [and, just for the disclaimer, this is a moniker, I live in Portland, and not only do I not have a college degree, I don’t have a job, and never have, in urban planning or any related field]

  57. Jennifer,
    Give me a break. The better question is,
    How many large metro areas of 2+ million people addressed their transportation needs by building NO freeway lanes.
    One, Portland. Unfortuntely that approach addresses nothing.
    When 205 opened congestion on the Eastside was absolutely built out of congestion.
    But then Metro took over and stopped all road and freeway expansion and used rail only.
    Naturally growth filled up all excess capacity over the years. Not “induced demand” but plain old regular population growth. More cars, trucks buses and services vehicles.
    We’ll never build enough light rail to increase the current mode share. Look at the last 20 years.
    This irrational exhuberance for ped/bike and rail transit in the face of worsening vehiclular traffic congestion is increasingly irresponsible.

    Why is it that so many people around here think talking transit addresses traffic? It doesn’t at all.

  58. I love how when posed with a perfectly legitimate question, anti-transit activists sidestep it and resort to ad hominem attacks on the questioner. Perhaps it is because you can’t answer it Ben? Your position is just as dogmatic as the anti-road lobby, except you have 50 years of history (against you) on your side.

  59. What did I sidestep? She’s playing Metro games and you don’t understand it.
    “build your way out of congestion”,,,”How many other citys”
    Many cities have built many freeway to keep pace with growth. Just because they also built some rail transit doesn’t mean that mode helped their congestion problem any more than our rail transit helped here. The fact is places like Dallas Fort Worth, San Antonio and many other places have built tremednous freeway grids with frontage roads on each side for short hops.
    It’s not hard to understand why maybe some would choose to built not so much of it.
    But NONE is insanity.
    Where’s the “ad hominem attacks”?
    That accusation is also right out of the Metro handbag. I can answer anything all day long.
    Your position on the other hand appears to be deliberate misunderstanding of mine.

  60. “Dallas Fort Worth, San Antonio and many other places have built tremednous freeway grids with frontage roads on each side for short hops.”

    Ok, you’re getting closer to an answer. How is the congestion in those cities? According to the Census Bureau, in 2002 Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio rank 17, 26, and 31, in average commute times, respectively, while Portland was 40th.

    http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Products/Ranking/2002/R04T160.htm

    Is that success? Houston has three complete freeway rings around their “city” and they rank 15th. Transferring that model here would essentially link the Cascades and the Coast Range with an enormous freeway loop (picture I-605 another 20 miles to the east). Is that the path we want to take here? It is the logical outcome of the More Freeways argument. You pick a path and stick with it. We have chosen a different policy solution that isn’t failing nearly as badly as some would have us believe.

    When you challenge the intelligence of the questioner with statements like “did you get that from a PSU class or a Metro coucilor” and “you don’t understand it,” that is the very definition of an ad hominem attack. Metro has nothing to do with it. For my disclaimer, I have a masters degree and am employed in an urban planning related field.

  61. “We have chosen a different policy solution that isn’t failing nearly as badly as some would have us believe.”

    We haven’t chosen a solution at all.
    How is ignoring traffic a solution?
    When do we start noticing it’s a solution? Or will the solution only show up on Metro/TriMet publications?

    The comparisons of Portland to D-FW etc you made do not in any way demonstrate we should not build any new freeway or highways.

    Do you believe we are 40th because of light rail and our land use planning?

  62. So from the last 10 or so messages, what I am getting out of the discussion is that:

    1. Commuter rail is off the table, period. Never mind that there are existing rails, equipment can be had, and the costs are minimal.

    2. High capacity bus transport is off the table, period. Although costs are minimal for this option too; even more minimal than option 1.

    3. We can’t build our way out of congestion, but we can build LRT which is supposed to get us out of congestion. What?!!

    4. We can’t afford new roads, but we can afford new LRT. LRT across the Columbia will require a new bridge, no matter what; which will drastically increase the cost of LRT compared to other modes of transit.

    So, I think those that say “we can’t build our way out of congestion” and “we can’t afford…” need to rethink their statements – we could afford a new highway (which will cover its operating costs) but we’d rather have the potential of reducing congestion with mass transit (which won’t cover its operating costs, and which will likely not reduce congestion). So if we can’t afford new transport, we should take a serious look at the commuter rail and BRT solutions as at least a stop-gap measure to try and encourage transit use.

    Otherwise we should stop using the excuse lines, and focus on what will make the largest contribution towards improving congestion (increasing capacity). We know that MAX won’t do anything to improve freight mobility; and that for MAX to be truly effective requires substantial investments in large parking lots, connecting transit, and other amenities to complete the transit experience. Commuter Rail will require those eventually; but will require fewer stations than MAX (since commuter rail isn’t designed as “local” transit); can be built using “temporary” facilities at first (has anyone been to the Tukwila Sounder/Amtrak station?) and expanded upon later; and can be used to prop up support for what could later become LRT if demand warrants.

  63. we can build LRT which is supposed to get us out of congestion. What?!!

    One place I think the critics are correct. Light rail and other transit will not substantially reduce congestion. What it provides is an alternative for people who don’t need or want to be part of creating congestion. The point is to provide more people with an alternative.

    Congestion is self-regulating – it is at the level that the people caught in it are willing to tolerate. People will create congestion up to the point that they decide they can’t tolerate it any more, given their other options. There are lots of other options including different choices of housing or employment for commuter trips and different choice of stores and entertainment. But light rail allows people to live in Beaverton and work in Hillsboro without getting on Highway 217 and Highway 26. That is good for them, the businesses they work for and the rest of the region.

    It allows a lot more people to work and shop downtown than which has helped create the vibrant center that has made Portland an attractive community. Which is also why Vancouver city officials want light rail to downtown Vancouver.

    But in Vancouver part of the point of improved transit is to allow people to continue to build houses in Clark County when the only available jobs are in Oregon.

    As an alternative to widening freeways, it will mean much less traffic for people in North and Northeast Portland. But that is because the freeway capacity isn’t built, not because light rail is.

    As a supplement to more freeway capacity, it simply adds more potential trips with no real benefit for traffic or congestion. But it will still allow people who can’t tolerate the congestion created by the additional freeway capacity to live in Clark County. That will help the housing industry there.

    As for the argument about building freeway capacity to reduce congestion, the truth is that channeling traffic onto and around freeways creates congestion.

  64. For those who love to bash Metro and Portland’s planning efforts, let me remind you that Metro is governed by ELECTED officials and as such is a reflection of the values held by the electorate.

    In the most recent election, a Metro council race in Washington County, Tom Cox – a libertarian who publicly stated that his first act as Metro councilor would be to dust off the WSB – lost. People didn’t care for his vision and the vote reflected that. Portlanders don’t want our city to look like Houston, Phoenix, Dallas/Ft. Worth, etc.

  65. I gagged over
    “governed by ELECTED officials and as such is a reflection of the values held by the electorate”

    And
    “Portlanders don’t want our city to look like Houston, Phoenix, Dallas/Ft. Worth, etc.”

    That’s just plain funny, because much of the Portland region is the rat race chaos like areas in those other locales. If you choose to feel
    different that’s one thing.
    But I could take you to many parts of either locale and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
    It’s folly to play the game of theories and who does it best while ignoring the similar outcomes.
    The Portland region involves far more than the small world of short bike rides to public jobs in the city center.
    And if you don’t think Dallas-FW et al have any high livability you are hoodwinked.

    Put the “vision” aside, what part of the Portland region is evolving better than those other city’s regions?
    Gresham? Beaverton? Wilsonville? Hayden Island?
    The worst problenm we face is where our region is headed if the same policies are continued for another decade or two.
    Total gridlock, high unemployment, no affordable housing, perpetual funding crisis for basic services and no source of “re-investing” revenue.

    Take off that happy face mask and look at reality.

  66. Grant,
    Commute times have NOTHING to do with congestion. For example, if I commute from Salem to Portland each day at 3:00 AM, my commute time is longer than the census average commute time for the Metro area but I encounter NO congestion. If I commute from Eugene to Portland at the same time, my commute time is 2 hours but I encounter NO congestion.

    Congestion (delay) is caused by the number of vehicles at any one time and place. Commutes times are a function of the distance of the trip and delays encountered, if any, along the way. NPTS tells us that trips are getting longer each year and that certainly applies to Houston.

    He simply refused to look at congestion data published annually by the transportation school at Texas A & M because it was counter to his assertion.

    Grant claims to have masters degree. I don’t know of any school that would teach anyone to analyze transportation data that doesn’t recognize the difference between commute times and congestion.

  67. Insomuch that Metro continues to push high value, dense housing in limited locations, it will continue to push those who cannot afford the same housing out of the area.

    Clark County is the refuge: it is outside Metro’s grasp, and therefore Clark County can effectively do what it wants, even if it’s 180 degrees opposite of what Metro wants.

    Same with Yamhill County, Columbia County, and Marion County – all three are within a reasonable commute from downtown Portland, and outside Metro. Anyone who drives up/down I-5 from Portland to Salem knows that the freeway is hardly empty – some 80,000 cars a day drive up and down the six lanes of concrete; another 35,000 on 99W north of Newberg, and the numbers escape me this moment for U.S. 30 at the Multnomah/Columbia County line south of Scappoose, but that road is also a wide, five lane highway.

    Without addressing housing prices, we’ll continue on the same path where we are – we will push those who can’t afford $300,000, $400,000, and up housing and they will be forced to DRIVE because transit won’t keep up with them – and certainly the Portland Streetcar doesn’t cater to the “poorer” neighborhoods but those who live in Lents, Rockwood, and other lesser neighborhoods still have to pay for the Streetcar through property taxes and the passthrough from TriMet.

    Since there is little desire to move the services that those individuals need into the central city, those individuals will have to choose – live closer to the services (in the ‘burbs or further out); or commute to work. No one wants Wal-Mart downtown; but the large businesses don’t want to pay the “common folk” more money so that they can’t afford things nicer than at Wal-Mart. Chris, with all due respect to you, most employers don’t allow their employees to telecommute; only 20-25% of companies allow it – and with that percentage, only the managers and certain other individuals are allowed to. Even when I was a manager a few years back at a certain company, I wasn’t given the option of telecommuting except on a very rare circumstance (i.e. I was sick). So we have to focus on getting people to work, letting people live close to work, letting people have what they need close to home, and doing so – even if it means forcing housing costs down, and allowing development that we don’t normally permit.

    Otherwise, we WILL have to deal with issues like the Columbia River Crossing. Both I-5 and I-205 are designated “National Highway System” component roads and as such are not just a city, county, or state issue but also a federal issue. Unless we are prepared to solve the housing issue, we know traffic is going to increase even if we throw money at BRT/LRT/commuter rail – so I think we’ve concluded that widening the highway has GOT to be an option, and transit should be considered but is secondary.

    Or, we can re-think our land use policies, and understand that there is a substantial population that can’t afford to buy a $400,000 condo. Over 50% of Beaverton’s population alone are renters, not owners. Hillsboro and Portland are similar. The exodus of mobile home park owners is staggering, and we have no solution for those former homeowners who have been uprooted by those who own the land underneath them – they can’t afford a new home; much less land for their manufactured home. Where are they going to go? Certainly, not downtown, but places like – Clark County.

  68. I think Ross makes an important point about the self-regulation of traffic. Congestion and wait time is a cost that must be endured and once that cost is too great relative to the payoff, a rational person will make another choice. I support transit and biking infrastructure for this reason. Seems to me that biking/transit is a cost effective way to lessen peak time burden on our highways relative to building or expanding them. I work for an electric utility and we have much the same problem. Build another coal plant to accomadate the increase in peak demand every morning and evening, or, utilize more demand side oriented methodologies for reducing peak demand? Efficiency and conservation are the cheapest and lowest risk resource in this scenario. More freeways are a fool’s errand in my opinion and $6billion, just to increase traffic through N. Portland is a crime. We already have very high levels of benzyne in the air.

  69. Ruh-

    There has been some research done in the Bay Area to determine how much population is required to support a commuter rail station:

    http://www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/smart_growth/tod/RES-3434-Att-D-2.pdf

    background:

    http://www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/smart_growth/tod/tod_background.htm

    The Transit Oriented Development Study looked at population levels needed to support light rail, commuter rail, Bus Rapid Transit and BART stations.

    For Commuter Rail, it was decided that a threshold of 2,200 households within a half mile distance of a station would be the minimum necessary to support that station — but that this level represents an average for all stations in the corridor.

    For instance, if a McMinnville to downtown Portland commuter rail line had 6 stations, one of them could have 500 households, one 3500, one 2,000, one 2,200, one 1,800 and one 2,400. The average would be above 2,200 per station, so the line would meet the threshold.

    Note that these thresholds are based on future levels, not existing. So, if downtown McMinnville only has 600 households within a half mile of their station, but they also have a bunch of vacant or under-utilized lots, they could potentially zone those lots for higher-density (3-6 story) development, and make up the difference with the future units. They would then have to show progress towards achieving those units as the project moved forward.

    See the full study report for more details. It’s actually pretty interesting. And, I would argue, if it makes sense in the Bay Area, where it presumably costs more to operate transit than in Portland, those same thresholds would be even more effective up here.

  70. You know, it is actually possible to build enough infrastructure to keep up with demand and avoid high levels of congestion.

    However, I don’t think anyone in this state is willing to pay for it – it would require billions, and billions, and billions of dollars of investment. Not only freeways, but light rail, dedicated bus-only lanes, subway, commuter rail, and a whole host of other improvements.

    Perhaps $30 or $40 billion in the next 5 years might be a good start to pay for these things?

    There is a reason the American Society for Civil Engineers keeps awarding the US a “D” for our infrastructure and recommends an immediate $1.6 TRILLION investment in everything from roads, rails, schools and dams:

    what we have is falling apart, and it doesn’t adequately meet the needs of our population.

  71. If commuter rail can work from McMinnville to Portland, then it HAS to work from Washougal to Portland – and that doesn’t require rebuilding the track from the subroadbed up, or a massive civil engineering effort to overcome Rex Hill.

    Certainly there are sufficient numbers of households located all up and down the BNSF mainline from downtown Vancouver to Washougal (given the railroad goes through many residential neighborhoods, unlike the BNSF main north towards Seattle which passes through industrial areas and alongside Vancouver Lake where there are no homes). It would also connect the city centers of Camas and Washougal with downtown Vancouver, and potentially offer service to Hayden Island, Rivergate, St. Johns, and Northwest Portland/Willbridge.

    And, it wouldn’t cost anywhere near the multi-million dollar cost per mile that a LRT line would cost. In fact, absolutely no new infrastructure would be required, other than a few station platforms and a few park-and-ride lots.

  72. If commuter rail can work from McMinnville to Portland, then it HAS to work from Washougal to Portland – and that doesn’t require rebuilding the track from the subroadbed up, or a massive civil engineering effort to overcome Rex Hill.

    Erik –

    You seem to be overlooking the question of track ownership and its current users. As I understand it, the McMinnville track is very lightly used. The track from Washougal is very heavily used. The likely willingness of the track owners to have it used for commuter rail is not the same.

    The other barrier to commuter rail connections to downtown Portland is that, while that is the most dense job center in the region, it is not the only one. And Union Station is not within easy walking distance to those jobs. So commuter rail connects to a transit center where most people will have to transfer to get to their ultimate destination. That may work, but it is not the same as the Washington County commuter rail that connects several suburban job centers with the purpose of increasing the density of job development around the commuter rail stations.

    The idea of commuter rail is a good one. I ran a Go Rail! project to promote rail solutions in the region. But it is not a replacement for light rail any more than streetcars are. They can all serve roles. And if we want commuter rail to work, we need to acknowledge the barriers are real and overcome them. Dismissing them as excuses is not going to move things forward.

  73. No, I am not overlooking the issue of track ownership.

    BNSF has a long history of supporting, and even operating, commuter rail systems. Just look north to Seattle – the track is similar (double track mainline), has just as much if not more freight (the line passes THROUGH several railyards; where a Portland-Washougal line would pass through only two yards and skirt a third), and the trains are operated by BNSF (the Engineer and Conductor are BNSF employees).

    UP, on the other hand, doesn’t – it operates one system in Chicago which it inherited. Further, UP has a poor record when it comes to facilitating (see Altamont Commuter Express, which operates on a single-track main over a mountain pass).

    The ex-SP Newberg Branch, the track from Newberg to Sherwood (continuing south to McMinnville and north to Lake Oswego and Milwaukie) would require SUBSTANTIAL sums of money to upgrade. The track, even when it was used to operate the Red Electric trains, had a top speed of 35 MPH over Rex Hill – to operate any faster would require a brand new alignment or a tunnel.

    The BNSF line from Washougal to Portland ALREADY handles Amtrak passenger trains at 79 MPH (even in Northwest Portland, there are several stretches of track where passenger trains are authorized at 79; the speed restrictions are due to curves, drawbridges, or other concerns but not track conditions).

    So, exactly what obstacles are there to be had? It seems that the excuses to disfavor commuter rail are in fact being made up and have little to back them up. Do issues exist? Certainly – but the issues are certainly not fatal flaws and are certainly not insurmountable; whereas a LRT expansion to Vancouver requires a $2B bridge just to go one mile (from Hayden Island to downtown Vancouver); or a massive rerouting of the line to the west which has other issues.

    Is commuter rail to McMinnville impossible? No – but there is a roadblock (Rex Hill) that MUST be addressed. Portland-Washougal commuter rail has no such major road blocks.

    Portland-Salem commuter rail? There are a few – the track is single-track main and heavily congested; and there are several stretches of track where expanding capacity is difficult (Oregon City, Salem); and several bridges that would need to be rebuilt (Molalla River). But the existing track is, like the BNSF, already suitable for passenger operations with a top speed of 79 MPH.

    Today, the top speed over Rex Hill is…10 miles an hour. Kind of like saying that a Greyhound bus can operate on a dirt road – well, yes, it can, but it will be a long, slow, and bumpy ride.

  74. Commuter rail to Clark county was looked at by the Governors’ I-5 TF. Four issues make it difficult to justify costs, though Jim Howell will argue that they set the costs too high.
    1. existing freight congestion at both ends of the Columbia rail bridge
    2. heavy freight volumes on the double track north as well as the single track east.
    3. lack of high population and high density potential along both lines…Fruit Valley and Ridgefield to the north and east Vancouver, Camas and Washougal to the east.
    4. lack of intermediate stops between River and Union Station in Portland for either BNSF or UPRR alignments.
    Perhaps the greatest potential commuter rail line is the the old line running NE through Vancouver to Battle Ground. But its not really an either/or question. Commuter rail, light rail and streetcar all have their place. In this case, light rail has already been built up to the Columbia’s edge, so logic suggests its extension into downtown Vancouver and to neighborhoods to the north and east is the best next step.
    Maybe the City of Vancouver decides an east/west connector between the old Boise Cascade land, downtown and the historic preserve should be a streetcar. Fine. And after the massive CRC bridge collapses of its own financial weight, WSDOT looks to add some commuter runs down from Ridgefield or Longview to supplement the Cascades service. Fine. Each has its place.

  75. Erik-

    I’d have to agree with Lenny and others. It’s not either-or. Light rail was buitl right up to the river; it’s obvious that the intent is to complete the line into downtown Vancouver. This will complete an important link in the regional transportation system, and must eventually be done.

    However, commuter rail could easily happen quicker. In fact, I remember in.. what was it, 97? 98? When the I-5 bridge was closed, there was for the duration of the closure a commuter rail service operated from Union Station to Vancouver.

    So, it’s completely possible to start up that service and have it running next week. If it goes to Washougal, Camas and Battleground, it might even turn out to be a highly-successful, heavily-used alternative.

    Light rail would still be necessary to serve commuters travelling between Vancouver and North/Northeast Portland, or Southeast Portland, or probablya number of other destinations. The commuter rail would similarly serve its own share of the market.

    And, if coupled with a TOD policy requiring that a minimum of 2,200 housing units be planned for as an average around each station, this could be a really good thing for Clark County.

    I’m not sure why the bi-state consortium hasn’t taken a more serious look at this as a whole package, including the TOD aspect.

  76. I don’t see commuter rail as an “either-or” – what I see is that commuter rail could be started quickly. (In fact, the only reason why commuter rail is taking so long to start on the Washington County commuter rail system is that TriMet ordered customized rail vehicles that have a two year lead time; the rail itself is mostly complete; and the infrastructure will largely be done next year; but it’ll take an additional several months for the vehicles to arrive.)

    LRT will take three, four years at a minimum to be built. LRT will also require a new right-of-way in Vancouver that doesn’t exist. You can’t put LRT on existing freight mainlines like you can commuter rail. And building a two mile extension of LRT at two billion dollars will be a VERY expensive proposition.

    If there is a “lack of population density” then how is LRT justified? LRT requires significant population density to be successful as well. I agree that the Lewis & Clark branchline to Battle Ground holds promise – but for a Battle Ground resident to commute to Portland, what’s the better option – a light rail train that in terms of customer comfort is not much better than a bus, or a commuter train?

    Ross – I have read the rail capacity study. Explain how commuter rail works in Seattle under the same conditions – a heavy concentration of both local and through trains, far greater port traffic (i.e. intermodal trains, auto trains) than Portland, more passenger trains, and the system works OK. And Seattle does have its own two-track bottle neck, the Seattle downtown tunnel.

    You’ll also note that most of the “incremental improvement” areas are not even on the Portland-Washougal route, but on the UP routes that see no passenger service (or at East Portland where Amtrak trains do access the Steel Bridge en route to Eugene/California), or at the BNSF yard in Vancouver (which would be bypassed by Portland-Washougal trains).

  77. If there is a “lack of population density” then how is LRT justified?

    No one is proposing running light rail from Washougal to downtown Portland. One of the reasons light rail is successful on the West Side is that traffic is almost equal in both directions. Lots of people who live in Portland go to work in Beaverton and Hillsboro via light rail. You keep inappropriately comparing light rail to express buses and commuter rail.

    TriMet ordered customized rail vehicles

    The application for federal funding for the Washington County light rail project was conceived, designed and managed by Washington County, not Trimet. The project was delayed because the Feds didn’t want to approve it.

    The infrastructure will largely be done next year; but it’ll take an additional several months for the vehicles to arrive.

    That isn’t what the Trimet site says.

    Explain how commuter rail works in Seattle under the same conditions

    That’s simple. The conditions obviously aren’t the same. As anyone looking at the population densities would know.

    I’m done with this discussion. It is going nowhere.

  78. How many folks rode the commuter service during the ’97 bridge closure? Admittedly a pretty short test, but lots of commuters to Swan Island got into vanpools and buses for that week.
    I doubt that getting MAX to downtown Vancouver has that high a price tag; the $2 Billion number includes a lot more than just that.
    ROW? the broad streets of downtown Vancouver, then maybe 4th Plain Boulevard…that’s up to folks over there.
    But downtown Vancouver and the neighborhood just to the north has more existing and potential density than just about any place else in Clark county, not to mention Clark College nearby.
    If you want to see how all three rail systems work together, hop the Lufthansa flight to Frankfut/Main, Germany. With a dozen plus commuter lines (S-Bahn), 7 lightrail lines (U-Bahn) and as many or more streetcar lines (StrassenBahn), not to mention buses, they have the whole deal. We have barely begun.

  79. Lenny: “How many folks rode the commuter service during the ’97 bridge closure? Admittedly a pretty short test, but lots of commuters to Swan Island got into vanpools and buses for that week.”

    Yes, and the ’97 bridge closure didn’t have any associated TOD. Getting the housing unit count up around each station (within a half-mile, that is) would make a world of difference. I seem to recall that people rode the train (I certainly rode it at least once, just because I had the opportunity to do so), but that it wasn’t really standing-room-only or anything.

    And as for the density needed to support light rail, that would be a minimum of 3300 housing units within a half-mile. Certainly, that many units could be zoned for and built within a half mile of any LRT stations in downtown Vancouver?

  80. No one is proposing running light rail from Washougal to downtown Portland. One of the reasons light rail is successful on the West Side is that traffic is almost equal in both directions. Lots of people who live in Portland go to work in Beaverton and Hillsboro via light rail. You keep inappropriately comparing light rail to express buses and commuter rail.

    Fine. Let’s compare commuter rail from Vancouver to Portland (10 miles).

    Capital cost? Zero (since the existing Vancouver train station would be used, the existing parking lot would be used, and the existing facilities at Union Station would be used.)

    Equipment cost? One locomotive, four bi-level coaches and one cab car – about $12 million. Time from Vancouver to Portland is about 10-15 minutes. Two round trips per hour, 600-700 passenger capacity per train.

    Cost of LRT (for shy of two miles)? $2 billion.

    $12 million, or $2 billion. Should be an easy answer.

    The application for federal funding for the Washington County light rail project was conceived, designed and managed by Washington County, not Trimet. The project was delayed because the Feds didn’t want to approve it.

    TriMet is manging the construction, which includes the bidding of ALL materials including the DMUs. TriMet’s webpage clearly states:

    “Passengers will ride in self-propelled diesel train cars. TriMet is working with Colorado Railcar to design and build the vehicle.” (source: http://www.trimet.org/commuterrail/project.htm ) – this has been on TriMet’s website for at least two years. Washington County did not choose the vehicle; and all “competitive bids” are on TriMet’s website, not Washington County’s.

    That’s simple. The conditions obviously aren’t the same. As anyone looking at the population densities would know.

    Then how is LRT justified when commuter rail isn’t? Exactly what is the difference between the required population density for commuter rail and LRT? And let’s have some numbers that aren’t presented by Metro/TriMet that favor LRT over anything.

    The track conditions – of which I was referring to – is similiar to that in Seattle, and commuter rail works up there. Commuter rail is being planned in Salt Lake City (which also has LRT). Commuter rail is also in operation in New Mexico (which has a much lesser population density than the Portland metro area).

    I’m done with this discussion. It is going nowhere.

    This is a perfect example of how local officials are shutting down discussion of ANYTHING but LRT. If MAX isn’t involved, then forget it. I don’t buy into that argument. The fact is that we have a cost-effective transport method right at our fingertips, but we have officials that are willing to overlook it, and even go so far as to hold off on improvements because MAX isn’t involved.

    The fact is that TriMet nearly bankrupted itself by funding Interstate MAX itself (because the funding initatives for new bond authority failed). That has cost the entire region severely – by forcing cutbacks in the regional bus service. If we can’t afford a bridge, I don’t see how we can afford more LRT – so if the goal is to look at cost effective solutions to moving people, commuter rail and busses are the most cost effective. Why aren’t they back on the table?

  81. Erik-

    “Then how is LRT justified when commuter rail isn’t? Exactly what is the difference between the required population density for commuter rail and LRT? And let’s have some numbers that aren’t presented by Metro/TriMet that favor LRT over anything.”

    Per the source I mentioned previously in this thread, commuter rail would require about 2200 housing units within a half mile, whereas light rail would require about 3300 housing units within a half mile, average per all stations within a corridor. These figures are not HOUSES ON THE GROUND, however — they represent both existing and planned housing. So, if there’s not enough housing now, but the jurisdictions could feasibly zone for and attract the construction of enough housing to meet the thresholds, then it could be a viable project.

    Point being, either service could work. It’s just a question of how badly folks want them, and what they’re willing to do to make them work by building transit oriented development around them.

    And, I agree that the region needs to be taking a more serious look at commuter rail as an option for providing service now (or at least, sooner) for less cost than a full-fledged light rail system, acknowledging that one does not necessarily preclude the other, but rather that they would actually complement one another by servicing two entirely different markets.

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